School support staff face tough decision over pay equity

This week, thousands of school support staff will start holding paid union meetings around the country to decide whether the promise of a future pay equity settlement is enough to outweigh a “miserly” pay offer from the Ministry of Education.

After six months of collective agreement negotiations between NZEI Te Riu Roa and the ministry, support staff were finally offered pay rises ranging between 1.1-1.6 per cent. However, if accepted, the settlement will trigger planning of a process for pay equity talks for teacher aides. Negotiations for other support staff will follow.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said support staff had a tough decision to make at the meetings which will be held between August 1 and 16.

“The pay offer is pitiful, especially for people who are already often on extremely low wages and precarious employment from term to term. We also pushed hard for any increase to be funded by the government, but that was refused and schools will have to pay the increase out of their stretched operating budgets,” she said.

“The only cause for optimism is the prospect of a pay equity settlement for teacher aides, with other support staff to follow. Aged care workers received government-funded pay rises of 20-40 per cent through their settlement, so support staff may choose to accept the low pay rise now in anticipation of a big win down the track.

“Pay equity is the single biggest opportunity the education sector has to win the major improvement in pay and conditions that support staff deserve.”

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