Nearly 50,000 New Zealand teachers walked out of classrooms on Thursday, demanding better pay, conditions and resources at a time when the center-left Labour Party of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is trying to win back support.
Teachers, traditionally a key voting base of the Labour government, are the latest public servants to walk off the job demanding more money for themselves and for their schools as costs escalate in New Zealand.
Since appointing Hipkins in January after former prime minister Jacinda Ardern stood down, the Labour government has said it will refocus on issues related to rising costs and helping New Zealanders meet those. It is a move seen by political analysts as attempting to win back voters ahead of an October general election and comes after the increases in social security benefits were announced this week.
"We know it's been a really tough time for teachers over the last couple of years, as it has been for everybody, but my heart goes out to them," Minister of Education Jan Tinetti, a former teacher, told state-owned 1News.
Mark Potter, president of one of the teacher's unions NZEI Te Riu Roa, said in a statement the current offers from the government don't do enough for teachers, principals or children.
"Strike action is the last thing we want to do, but members want to send a message to the government about how serious we are about needing change," he added.