September 22, 2004
NZEI Pleased Minister To Talk About Support Staff Funding
NZEI Te Riu Roa welcomes a commitment from the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, to talk to the union’s National Executive about the problems surrounding the funding of school support staff.
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard was responding to a question from a school support staff member at NZEI’s Annual Meeting in Wellington today.
In a question from the floor of the conference, Jenny Sorensen, the personal assistant for the principal at Okato College, south of New Plymouth, asked Mr Mallard if he would establish a Ministerial Taskforce to develop a new system for funding school support staff.
NZEI Te Riu Roa has 9500 support staff members working as secretaries, teacher aides, librarians and in a wide range of other non teaching jobs in primary and secondary schools.
NZEI estimates they are underpaid by as much as $6 million because they are not being paid what they are legally entitled to under their collective employment agreement. The current funding system also means they face an on-going threat of having their hours of work and therefore their pay cut.
The underpayment is the result of support staff being paid from the operations grants the government gives schools to pay for all their running costs. This means they are paid from the same money schools used to buy equipment, maintain classrooms and pay the power bill. Schools struggle to spread their grants across all these costs, putting constant pressure on boards and principals to find the money to pay their support staff.
Yesterday the NZEI members at Annual Meeting endorsed a union proposal for a new funding system which proposes that the government provide funding earmarked specifically for core work done by support staff. Money would also be provided within the operations grant that would enable schools to employ any additional support staff they required.
Today Jenny Sorensen asked Mr Mallard to establish a Ministerial Taskforce to develop a new funding system.
The Minister said he found the report useful and described the union’s proposal for a new funding system as “the germ of a good idea.” He said he would be talking to the NZEI National Executive about how to take “the right way forward.”
“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to talk to NZEI about this issue. It’s vital that we start work on building a better system for funding these essential education professionals.”