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School Support Staff To Attend Claims Meetings

March 18, 2005

Thousands Of School Support Staff To Attend Claims Meetings

Thousands of support staff working in primary and secondary schools will be attending more than a hundred meetings throughout the country to discuss claims for the renegotiation of their collective employment agreements, including a claim for a 6% across the board pay rise.

Their union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, has organised 123 meetings to be held in work time. They begin on Wednesday March 30 and continue for two and a half weeks until Friday April 15.

NZEI has 9600 support staff members working in more than 2500 primary and secondary schools. They work as teacher aides, special education assistants, school secretaries and executive officers, science and IT technicians, physiotherapists, nurses, librarians, sports co-ordinators and in more than 80 other jobs.

“Support staff are essential in ensuring schools run successfully and that every student receives a quality education,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr. “The problem is their pay rates simply don’t recognise the importance of the work they do.”
“For example the salary for special education assistants, who work with students who have physical disabilities or behavioural issues, starts at just $21,000 a year.”

“Support staff working with special needs students do a very important job. They ensure students who need high levels of support get the same quality of education as every other student at their school.”

“They, and their support staff colleagues, should be fairly rewarded for the important work they do.”

“This is why our claims package includes a 6% pay rise along with other claims that will provide much needed improvements to their working conditions which in turn helps enhance student’s learning conditions,” says Colin Tarr.

The major claims that support staff will discuss at their union meetings are: A 6% across the board pay rise Enhanced job security provisions Addressing the issue of non payment during term breaks Enhanced and more equitable leave provisions Addressing support staff health and safety concerns

Underpinning all these claims are the major problems caused by the way support staff jobs are bulk funded from a school’s operations grant. This grant is the same money principals and boards use to pay maintenance costs and buy all the equipment and resources that a school needs. As a result support staff live with the on-going threat of their job disappearing or their pay being slashed, through a cut in their hours of work, because school managers need the money to pay the bills or buy equipment.
“As a principal I know how difficult it can be, at times impossible, to juggle support staff wages with all the other items that have to be funded from a school’s ops grant,” says Colin Tarr.

“This is not only unfair to support staff, it creates a great deal of stress for principals and boards and is unsettling for students, because cuts to support staff hours can mean cuts to their education programmes,” says Colin Tarr.

“The Government has to recognise that the current funding system is not working and that there is a desperate need for a new system that is fairer and more effective, not only for support staff but for school managers and students.”

“This is why we are calling on the Government to set up a Ministerial Working Party to develop a better system for funding support staff jobs.”

“Support staff are determined to establish a better funding system. As well as voting on their claims at their meetings they will also be discussing their campaign to convince the Government to establish the Ministerial Working Party,” says Colin Tarr.

NZEI has arranged the claims meetings during work time so support staff can have the time for a full briefing and discussion of their claims package. Under the Employment Relations Act 2000 all union members are entitled to attend two of these paid union meetings a year.

A full list of the meetings is provided with this release. The meetings are for members to discuss and vote on their claims. They are not open to the media but reporters and photographers are welcome to go to the meetings and talk to NZEI officials and support staff representatives after the meetings.


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