Early childhood educators and their supporters have picked up their shovels today and posed for pictures to draw attention to the sector’s readiness for ‘shovel-ready’ investment.
Ahead of October’s election, the teachers, parents and whānau have targeted political candidates on social media with their creative ‘shovel-ready’ inspired photos, calling on them to commit to additional funding for ECE as a priority in Aotearoa’s post-COVID recovery.
The action is part of the ECE Voice campaign, which has over ten thousand supporters wanting to see fair pay for qualified early childhood teachers.
Currently some qualified ECE kaiako are paid up to 49% less than their Kindergarten counterparts doing the same job and with equivalent experience and qualifications. Stories collected in a survey by NZEI Te Riu Roa at the start of this year illustrated the significant impact of this low pay on many of these teachers, and their concern that their related stress has a negative impact on the children they teach.
The idea for today’s stunt came from ECE kaiako and NZEI Te Riu Roa union member Chloe Grocott, who has been working in the sector for a decade. Chloe says the Government is approving ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects which will have public or regional benefit, can support people back into the workforce, and will enhance sustainable productivity in the future.
“When I hear these criteria, all I can think is, ‘That is us! That is the early childhood sector. ECE is shovel-ready!’ Whether in a real or virtual sandpit, throughout each alert level we have been prepared with our buckets and shovels, ready to do the mahi needed to get Aotearoa moving.”
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford says investment in ECE would be especially welcomed as while 90% of those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are women, most of the Government's shovel-ready investment has gone to create jobs primarily in male-dominated industries.
"ECE services provide critical value to our tamariki and their whānau every day, and yet many of them are understaffed and have teachers who are underpaid. Right now, the Government is looking for opportunities for shovel-ready investment - and we think ECE should be high on that list."
"When we invest in our teachers, we're investing in our tamariki and their quality education. As part of Aotearoa's COVID recovery we have a chance to pay our kaiako fairly - making sure we retain our experienced teachers, and can continue to attract new ones to this crucial sector."
The shovel-ready action comes on the same day a joint statement on pay parity was released by NZEI Te Riu Roa, ECE membership organisation Te Rito Maioha, and ECE provider Barnardos, following a joint meeting with the Minister of Education earlier in the week.
The union’s early childhood teacher members want to see a clear pathway to pay parity, but their employers say this will only be possible with additional government (current or future) support.
The three parties are urging the Minister of Education to make a solid commitment to fund pay parity in the sector.