22nd August 2008
Fair Pay For Education's Invisible Army
A campaign for fair pay for school support staff is being launched in Rotorua today (Friday August 22nd) at NZEI's national Support Staff Conference.
NZEI, the country's largest education sector union, represents more than 12,000 support staff in primary, intermediate, area and secondary schools. They are the so-called "Invisible Army" of teacher aides, administration workers, sports co-ordinators, librarians, nurses and therapists. They represent the largest area of staffing growth in schools and are essential in supporting children's learning and in day-to-day school management.
Despite this, they are one of the lowest paid workforces in the country and can earn as little as $12.69 an hour. Support staff also have little job security as their salaries are bulk funded through the School Operations Grant and schools have to juggle their pay with other essential costs. NZEI wants to see targeted funding for core support staff positions so their salaries would be paid centrally, by government.
It has been lobbying the government for six years to address some of these issues.
The Minister of Education has indicated that school cleaners may shortly settle their collective agreement which NZEI understands will raise the minimum rate for school cleaners from $12.00 an hour to $14.62 an hour. This is a $2.62 an hour pay increase.
NZEI congratulates the Service and Food Workers Union for their cleaners and caretakers campaign so far, but believes that a government which is committed to addressing low pay should fix the situation for all school workers.
NZEI President Frances Nelson says "the problem of recruiting and retaining quality support staff due to low pay rates affects all schools. Schools are also struggling with funding to pay for enough teacher aides, administrative support and special needs support. The shortfalls in the Operations Grant must be addressed so skilled and valued support staff are retained in every school."
The conference will mark the launch of a fresh campaign to highlight the cause of support staff and make them a priority in terms of education spending.
Over 200 support staff from schools up and down the country will be at the conference which runs from August 22-24, and will be eager to hear what government representatives attending, have to say in response.