20th May 2008 For Immediate Release
Education’s Lowest Paid Workers Must Benefit From Budget
The country’s largest education union says this week’s Budget must increase school funding by at least 10 percent and put fair pay and job security for education’s lowest paid workers as a priority for education spending.
NZEI Te Riu Roa represents 11,500 support staff in primary, area and secondary schools throughout the country. They include teacher aides, administration workers, sports co-ordinators, librarians, and nurses, and are among the lowest paid workers in the country. They are often working with the most vulnerable children, but earn as little as $12.69 an hour - pay that doesn’t reflect their skills or commitment.
Their salaries are bulk funded through schools’ operations grants which pay for the day-to-day running costs of schools. The result is that schools struggle to find adequate funding to pay their support staff as they try to juggle their salaries with other essential costs.
NZEI wants to see the Government target funding for core support staff, so they are paid centrally by the government. This would give them job security, make them a less vulnerable workforce and help retain experienced and valuable staff.
NZEI President Frances Nelson says “having a fully and centrally funded administration position in schools would positively impact on teaching and learning by freeing principals up to carry out their core duties. We need skilled people who can share some of the responsibility for running the administrative side of a school, and the government needs to recognise that.”
“If the government is serious about education and addressing issues of low pay in the workforce, it must show a commitment to the growing number of school support staff and provide the additional funding needed to see that commitment through,” Ms Nelson says.
NZEI says a meaningful increase in the Operations Grant, of at least 10% would give schools extra funding and take some of the burden off them in terms of paying and keeping support staff on. Last year’s increase of 4% - effectively only 1.4% once adjusted by inflation - hardly touched the sides, and has not met the increased needs of schools.