Friday December 1, 2006
Special Education Workers To Get Pay Rises
Support workers who work with special needs children in early childhood education centres and schools are receiving pay increases of between four and five percent.
The increases are included in a collective agreement negotiated by their union, NZEI Te Riu Roa. The 250 support workers covered by the agreement are employed by the Special Education division of the Ministry of Education.
Most are education support workers assisting special needs children in early childhood education centres.
The others are either behaviour support workers working with psychologists and other specialists to assist students in schools with severe behaviour issues. Or communication support workers who work with specialists, such as speech language therapists, in helping school students with communication issues.
“They’re a low paid workforce so our focus in the negotiations was lifting their pay rates,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Irene Cooper.
The new agreement increases the bottom step on the support workers seven step pay scale from $11.64 an hour to $12.11, from July next year. The top step rises from $15.60 to $16.40. Support workers pay will rise between 4 and 5 per cent depending on where they sit on the pay scale.
The agreement also enables support workers to address a major issue of not being properly compensated for their travel costs.
Most use their own cars to drive to a number of centres or schools each day and are unable to claim most of their travel costs. In the most extreme cases support workers are seeing half their take home pay eaten up by the cost of using their cars for work.
“Simply increasing the mileage reimbursement rate will not fix the problem,” says Irene Cooper. “So under the new agreement NZEI will work with the Ministry to find solutions to the travel cost issue.”
The new agreement also establishes a Support Workers’ National Forum. This will include support workers, NZEI staff and Ministry representatives. “The forum is being established to ensure that the Ministry consults support workers when making decisions that affect their jobs,” says Irene Cooper.
The new agreement will also see a continuation of a role clarity working party established last year. This is clarifying support workers job descriptions and looking at their professional development needs.