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Union, teachers and employer celebrate new agreement

South Auckland early childhood teachers and their employer, Early Learning Counties Manukau, are celebrating a bold new collective agreement that delivers significant progress toward pay parity with kindergarten and primary teachers.

The pay gap between ECE teachers and their colleagues in these other settings has grown by as much as 49% over the past decade.

The collective agreement signed between the Early Learning Counties Manukau centres' teachers and their employer this week includes six pay steps that will put the teachers on the same salaries as similarly qualified and experienced kindergarten and primary teachers.

The agreement, which comes into force in September, anticipates the Government's funding increases in January 2022 for employers who 'opt-in' to paying their teachers in line with at least the first six pay steps of the Kindergarten Teachers' Collective Agreement.

"We’re pleased we could come together as teachers to create a new collective agreement that includes and exceeds the Government’s pay parity steps", says Amy Haigh, a teacher at ELCM Takanini.

"Although there’s more work to do, this agreement provides a pathway toward properly valuing our work as ECE teachers - something our sector absolutely needs to do if we're to address the critical shortage of teachers we currently have in ECE. As teachers, we hope this sends a positive signal to other teachers across the sector about the power of acting together in union to achieve better pay and conditions."

"I appreciate that this is a step toward pay parity for our teachers, and we value being able to work with our teachers to achieve this progress", says Calmar Ulberg, CEO of Early Learning Counties Manukau. "Recruitment and retention of ECE teachers is a challenge in the current funding climate and we are proud to be part of work towards improvements that ensure great teachers are attracted to the sector."

The new collective agreement - the first in the ECE sector for many years - will take effect on 27 September 2021 for an initial term of two years. The teachers' new collective agreement also includes pay increases for more experienced teachers, and a second, separate agreement offered by ELCM recognises the important leadership role of centre managers within the organisation.

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