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Minimum wage boost for low-paid education workers

Today's announcement of a $1.20 per hour increase to the minimum wage next April will be welcomed by thousands of low-paid education workers as the first step towards a Living Wage.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said it was also essential that schools and ECE centres had their operational funding increased in Budget 2019 to cover the pay rise.

"Schools and centres run their budgets on a knife edge, so any increase in staffing costs without a sufficient funding increase will mean cuts have to be made elsewhere - often in support staff hours and learning support for children," she said.

Ms Stuart said that ultimately the Living Wage (currently $20.55 per hour) needed to be the baseline for workers in education.

Ms Stuart said NZEI was also working on pay equity claims for these low-paid education workers, but the interim boost would be well received as long as schools and centres were funded for it.

"These female-dominated education support roles have been terribly undervalued despite the high levels of skills and responsibilities these workers have. This increase is just the beginning in recognising the true value of their work," she said.

MBIE's report on the minimum wage review highlighted that, "In the education sector, a large number support staff (ground staff, caretakers, cleaners, support staff and untrained teachers) are low paid. Support staff are paid from individual schools’ operating grants...The level of increase to minimum wage rates would add a cost pressure for (school) Boards, dependent on the level of future increases to school operational funding." (p46-47)

The report stated that 2100 people in the education sector are on the minimum wage.

Note: The first four steps on the Support Staff in Schools Collective Agreement are currently below the new minimum wage rate of $17.70. The agreement expires on 15 July 2019.

Under the Kindergarten Associations Support Staff Collective Agreement, the new minimum pay rate will exceed the negotiated starting rates in the various roles by up to 45 cents per hour on 1 April.


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