Union and employers come together to call on Government to address pay gap

Following historic stop work meetings, employers and employees negotiating two significant early childhood education (ECE) collective agreements are jointly calling on the Government to remedy inequities in teachers’ pay.

NZEI Te Riu Roa – the union representing ECE teachers – along with ECE membership organisation Te Rito Maioha and ECE provider Barnardos, are urging the Minister of Education to make a solid commitment to fund pay parity in the sector as a matter of urgency. The parties met with Minister Hipkins on Tuesday to press their case.

The call comes after stop work meetings saw NZEI Te Riu Roa members under the ECE Collective Agreement and Barnardos Collective Agreement vote to continue to campaign for pay parity.

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 support.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford says there is clear support from the public to fix the pay gap that sees ECE teachers paid up to 49% less than teachers in Kindergarten, primary and secondary teachers.

“Even amidst the challenging impacts of COVID-19, our recent polling shows a clear majority of New Zealanders – 69% – believe that early childhood teachers should have pay parity with primary school teachers.

“Investing in teachers is investing in our children. Currently, qualified teachers in early childhood education can be paid up to 49% less than their Kindergarten and primary school counterparts with equivalent experience, qualifications, and responsibilities. We need a clear, funded commitment from the Government for parity.”

Te Rito Maioha (ECNZ) Chief Executive, Kathy Wolfe says, “the message is coming through strongly from our employer members that they value and want to fairly recognise their teachers. For this to happen though, there must be much improved funding that flows straight to teachers pay and working conditions.”

“We urge the government to implement a robust pay parity plan to ensure all early learning teachers are paid the same as kindergarten and primary teachers with some urgency.”

“Government subsidies need to increase for the entire sector. ECE services have suffered over the last 11 years with no to very little funding increases. If this is not rectified as a matter of urgency, ECE centres will struggle to maintain high quality education for our youngest tamariki,” says Kathy Wolfe.

Barnardos Chief Executive, Mike Munnelly says, “As a long standing provider of quality early learning we strongly support the call for pay parity across the whole sector. This is essential so that all ECE teachers are treated fairly for the highly important work they do for our young tamariki and their whānau and in a way that recognises the impact this has on Aotearoa’s present and future.”

“Current funding arrangements make achieving pay parity in this space difficult, if not almost impossible to achieve. These are challenging times but a clear plan that is properly funded over time, is the solution we believe to this pressing issue.”

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