Sunday January 30
Some School Support Staff Start Year With Cut in Pay
The country’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, says the first day of school today (Monday January 31) will be a grim one for far too many school support staff who have suffered a large cut in their pay because their hours of work have been reduced.
NZEI represents more than 9500 support staff working as teacher aides, secretaries, executive officers, librarians, science and IT technicians, and in many other non teaching roles in primary and secondary schools.
“The union has had a disturbing number of calls from support staff members who are starting the school year with a massive pay cut because their hours of work have been slashed,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary, Lynne Bruce.
“We have support staff members whose hours have been reduced from 25 hours a week down to 10, which is 60% cut in their pay.”
This is due to the fact their salaries are funded from their school’s operations grant, the same fund school boards and principals use to buy books, pay the power bills and paint classrooms. This means support staff have little security about the hours they are employed because their salary is in competition with all the operational costs schools have to meet.
“As a result of the funding system some support staff have seen their jobs disappear completely as the new school year starts, while many have had their hours and therefore their pay drastically cut,” says Lynne Bruce.
“This is despite the government increasing operations grant funding by $27 million dollars just before Christmas. So it’s clearly a case of needing to change the system rather than just putting more money in.”
“Cutting support staff hours and pay will have an impact on the ability of schools to meet the education needs of their students, as the work they do with special needs students, in administration and in other non teaching roles, is vital to the effective operation of a school.”
The current funding system also results in many support staff not being paid the salaries they are legally entitled to receive under their collective agreement. NZEI estimates the 9500 support staff the union represents are being underpaid by up to $12 million.
The union is proposing a new system in which the government would provide guaranteed funding for core work done by support staff. Further money could be provided within the operations grant, enabling a school to employ any extra support staff they needed.
“NZEI is calling on the government to acknowledge the current funding system is causing major problems for support staff and invites them to join us and other parties involved in this issue, in working together to build a better system,” says Lynne Bruce.