October 31, 2005
School support staff have voted to accept a new 12 month collective employment agreement that provides a 2.8% increase in pay but they remain determined to address the problems caused by the bulk funding of their salaries.
The new agreement also establishes a work programme involving support staff and NZEI officials, the Ministry of Education, and the New Zealand School Trustees Association. Before the agreement expires on September 1, next year, the parties will be seeking solutions to issues such as support staff not being paid during term breaks and for all the hours they work, sorting out their grading definitions, recognising their qualifications and reconfiguring their pay structure.
The agreement covers more than 10,000 support staff who work in primary and secondary schools and belong to NZEI Te Riu Roa. They work as school managers, teacher aides, special education assistants, librarians, science and IT technicians and in 80 other jobs. Ninety five per cent voted to accept the new agreement.
“A substantial majority of school support staff have voted to accept the new agreement because it marks a step forward in their campaign to improve their pay and working conditions,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr.
“But they’ve made it clear the problems caused by the bulk funding of their salaries still remain and that they will continue to campaign for a fairer and more effective funding system.”
School support staff are still one of the lowest paid and most vulnerable workforces in the country because they’re paid from each school’s operations grant, the same pool of money schools use to buy materials like books and computers and pay running costs like power.
In June, support staff presented the Government with a 35,000 signature petition calling for a fairer and more effective system for funding their jobs. The Government has agreed to a review of schools’ operational funding that includes an analysis of the adequacy of current support staff funding arrangements.
“School support staff are going to be keeping a very close eye on that review,” says Colin Tarr.
“They want to see some real progress made on developing a funding system that will provide them with a level of job security, and with pay and working conditions, that matches the importance of the work they do.”
Colin Tarr says a key reason school support staff voted to accept the agreement is that it expires on September 1 next year.
“That gives the Government, the Ministry of Education, NZEI and the other parties involved in the review, 10 months to make some real progress in developing a better funding system.”
At the same time the work programme will be addressing the grading, qualifications, health and safety and pay structure issues, that have been identified.
“Clearly there’s a lot of work to do between now and next September,” says Colin Tarr.
“We need to get stuck in and get some results, because school support staff have told us that they expect to see a major improvements in their pay and working conditions when we negotiate the next agreement towards the end of next year.”
“It’s crucial that when start those negotiations we’re in a position to deliver a settlement that will lift support staff pay and working conditions to a level that recognises how vital they are in running our schools and in enabling every child to get a quality education,” says Colin Tarr.