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Bargaining On "Invisible Army" Pay Claim

Tuesday Nov 6th

Bargaining On "Invisible Army" Pay Claim

Bargaining starts today (TUESDAY NOVEMBER 6th) on a pay claim for 11,000 school support staff, which seeks to address issues of low pay and job security.

The claim, put together by NZEI Te Riu Roa, was endorsed by members at paid union meetings around the country in September.

It covers non teaching staff - or the so-called invisible workforce in the education sector - such as teacher aides, administration workers, sports co-ordinators, librarians, nurses and therapists. Support staff are the biggest area of staffing growth in schools, with more than 50 percent of this group being teacher aides. These staff are essential to the effectiveness of 21st century schools.

The claim seeks a ten percent wage increase over two years - five percent from January 2008 and another five percent from January 2009.

NZEI National President Irene Cooper says school support staff are one of the lowest paid workforces in the country and their pay rates of around $12-13 an hour are a disgrace. "In no way do the rates reflect their skill and commitment, nor the contribution they make to effective schools and children's learning," Ms Cooper says.

"Support staff have been waiting for three years for improvements to be made to the way they are resourced, since NZEI sought Government action to review their situation in 2004. It's the old story of bulkfunding: under-funding schools results in poor job security, fixed term employment and resistance to decent pay." Many schools struggle to find adequate funding to pay support staff and supplement their pay from locally raised funds, she says.

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Bargaining on the pay claim between NZEI and the Ministry of Education is set down over the next three weeks.

"The Labour Government says it is committed to improving incomes for low paid workers, as seen by its actions in the health sector," Ms Cooper says. "If workers in education can't make a living wage then the quality of our public education system is put in question. The Minister has all the information he requires to act this year and make sure that support staff get a fair deal".


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