22 October 2019
School support staff begin union meetings over pay equity and collective agreements
More than 10,000 school support staff around the country have begun two weeks of paid union meetings to discuss progress on pay equity, and next steps following the Ministry of Education's failure to present a collective agreement offer.
Ally Kemplen, an Auckland teacher aide on the NZEI Te Riu Roa pay equity negotiation team, said there had been several days of negotiations and it was disappointing that the ministry had not put forward an offer in time for the meetings.
"We'll be discussing the lack of progress and voting on next steps to get movement on this issue," she said.
Alongside collective agreement negotiations, NZEI Te Riu Roa is also progressing pay equity processes for teacher aides, school administrative staff and kaiarahi i te reo*. Pay equity processes for other school support staff groups are being planned.
The pay equity claim that has been progressed first is the teacher aide claim, and it is hoped that a settlement offer can be agreed on for teacher aides to vote on before the end of the year.
Admin and kaiarahi i te reo claims have been lodged, and claims for other support staff groups are in planning.
"Support staff are on the front line of student support. They're the glue that holds our schools together. Despite their considerable skills and responsibilities, 90% of teacher aides earn less than the Living Wage of $21.15 an hour and have very insecure employment, sometimes from term to term, with many having to hold down second jobs just to make ends meet," said Ms Kemplen.
"That's an appalling injustice, and it's through these pay equity processes that we have the potential to make significant movement on some of the longstanding issues for school support staff. We need the government to move as quickly as they can to correct this. In these meetings we'll be talking about how we can apply the pressure to make that happen."
The key teacher aide issues are:
• the need for significant increases in pay,
• security of employment,
• career development,
• school funding changes to support these
*Kaiarahi i te reo are fluent in Māori language and have an indepth knowledge of Māori traditions and beliefs. They work alongside a teacher supporting Māori language.