‘About bloody time’: Education support workers get pay equity settlement

The AM Show 19/09/2018

A pay equity settlement for education support workers is being hailed as a great first step.

The first of its kind ratification means 329 workers for the Ministry of Education who provide support to young children with additional learning needs will get pay increases.

Hourly rates will rise by up to 30 percent and there will be further jumps over the next three years. 

Ministry of Education Support Workers Jacoline Brink, Kathy Power, Mary Jones and Denise Tetzlaff led the negotiations on behalf of their colleagues.

"The financial benefit will mean I can do more for my own family, believing it will put us into a better position to buy our first home in New Zealand, and it will help me not to have to work two jobs anymore," said Ms Brink.

Ministry of Education support workers help children with severe learning challenges access education in early childhood centres, while communications support workers and behaviour support workers assist children in schools.

Hourly rates for staff will rise by up to 30 percent.

Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien says the pay equity settlement is "about bloody time", noting how the debate goes back over a decade. She said the women "deserve" the 30 percent pay increase because of the hard work they do.

The settlement is the result of a journey that began 12 years ago, led by the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), which had spent several years in pay equity processes under the previous Labour Government.

The former National Government "scrapped" the pay equity unit in 2008 and "refused to consider pay equity claims in collective agreement negotiations," a statement by NZEI claims. 

President Lynda Stuart says there are many people still undervalued in the industry, including teacher aides, admin support staff, and others working in early childhood education.

"We are looking at and taking pay equity claims for these people," she told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"These women work with some of our most vulnerable children and for them to have their skills and experience recognised for what they do, is wonderful and paves the way for other women in the education sector who are fighting for pay equity."

The settlement sees the lowest hourly rates move to $21.67 with a new earning point of $24.73 for those who have done four to nine years of service. Support workers with ten or more years of service on 1 July 2018, will move to a new rate of $25.70 an hour.

The agreement also includes minimum guaranteed hours for support workers, and establishes a working group to identify appropriate qualifications and career pathways for support workers by 1 July 2019.

Watch the full interview with Tova O'Brien above.

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