Historic pay equity for teacher aides

The Ministry of Education and NZEI Te Riu Roa have agreed to settle the pay equity claim for teacher aides.

This will benefit more than 22,000 teacher aides, mostly women, and includes pay increases of up to 28%, following the pay equity process that NZEI Te Riu Roa initiated with the Ministry of Education in 2016.  

“Teacher aides are frontline workers who work closely with some of our most vulnerable children. They play an important role in our schools as we respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and get the country back on its feet,” said Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

The teacher aide pay equity claim was lodged in 2016, and I’m pleased that an agreement has now been reached. This is a milestone for teacher aides and a significant step towards addressing pay equity for women in the education sector.

The new rates will range from $21.20 to $34.68 per hour, and be effective from 12 February 2020.

“Details of the settlement will be widely communicated to all teacher aides before NZEI members vote on it.  The settlement, if accepted, will acknowledge the value of the skills, responsibilities and demands of teacher aide work,” Chris Hipkins said.

The settlement costs $348 million over the next five years. 

Schools will receive the additional funds in October 2020 and teacher aides will receive the new pay equity rates by November, backdated to 12 February 2020.

Taken together with Living Wage pay increases won during collective bargaining late last year, most teacher aides will now receive pay rises of 23-34% across the course of 2020. That’s an increase of $4 to $6.60 an hour, recognising the value of teacher aides’ skills, responsibilities and experience that has been undervalued on the basis of gender. Schools will be funded to pay the increased rates. 

In the coming weeks, all teacher aides in schools and kura will have the opportunity to attend Zoom hui to discuss the details before voting online to endorse the settlement. 

The teacher aides on the NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiation team are ecstatic about the proposed settlement. 

Fa’a Sisnett, a teacher aide in West Auckland, says, “Winning pay equity means that I can feel like a valued, contributing member of my family as well as feeling valued for the job that I do at school.” 

Andrea Andrews, a teacher aide in Christchurch, says, “The people that come into this profession – because that’s what it is – will do so knowing that what they contribute is going to be valued. And that is amazing.” 

For Ally Kemplen, a teacher aide in central Auckland for the past 21 years, pay equity means she will be able to afford to buy a washing machine instead of using a laundromat.

It’s going to change my life in so many ways.

Annie Te Moana, Kaiāwhina, South Auckland, says, “Mana taurite pay equity will change my life and many of my colleagues because now we will be able to live a little bit more comfortably, mana taurite also recognises and values our roles as kaiāwhina in kura throughout Aotearoa.”   

Marcia Martin, a teacher aide at Tauranga Special School, welcomes the recognition of the hard work and contribution that teacher aides make to children’s education.

“All teacher aides go above and beyond, often working unpaid just to ensure the children get what they need during the school day. This not only will mean more money but recognition as a profession worth being in,” she says. 

NZEI Te Riu Roa President, Liam Rutherford, says the proposed settlement is a huge win for teacher aides and for women. 

“The evidence from this process was stark and confirmed what we already knew – teacher aides have been significantly undervalued and underpaid for decades because they are predominantly women. This proposed settlement will finally pay teacher aides equitably and recognise their value,” he says. 

“This settlement also paves the way for pay equity settlements for other support staff groups, such as administrators and Kaiārahi i te Reo, which we’re looking to progress as quickly as possible.”   

Following a vote open to all teacher aides to endorse the settlement, NZEI Te Riu support staff members will vote to vary their collective agreement to take in the settlement. Following this, all teacher aides will be transferred to new pay steps based on a new work grading matrix.

NZEI Te Riu Roa members will be able to access union support and member workshops to make sure they are on the right grade.

All teacher aides will start receiving the new pay rates by November 2020, backdated to 12 February 2020. 

In addition to pay increases, the proposed settlement changes the way skills are assessed, includes a more flexible and increased Tiaki allowance (formerly “dirty work” allowance), makes changes to how much hours can be varied and increases professional learning and development funding. A commitment has also been made to investigate central funding, the use of fixed term contracts and the development of career pathways. 

Fine print from the Ministry:

  • Teacher aides who perform tiaki duties (assisting children soiled with bodily fluids) on a regular basis, will also receive an extra $2.60 per hour on top of their hourly rate, while those who perform these duties occasionally will see their allowance increased from $3.85 to $4.81 if the work is performed on that day.
  • Teacher aides who aren’t union members will receive the pay equity rates by signing a new Individual Employment Agreement (IEA) once it is published, or by joining NZEI Te Riu Roa.
  • In addition to the pay correction, teacher aides will have more certainty around the hours they work, and professional learning and development (PLD) opportunities for teacher aides will also be more readily available.
  • The offer also increases the $0.79 million PLD fund agreed as part of the Support Staff in Schools’ Collective Agreement settled at the end of last year to $2.29 million.

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