Pay rise agreed for ‘undervalued’ school support staff

Teacher aides and other school support staff could be in for a significant pay rise and better job security, as negotiations between the Ministry of Education and the NZEI Te Riu Roa union continue (HM November 20).

Support staff includes teacher aides, administration staff, librarians, kaiārahi i te reo, therapists and technicians in primary, intermediate and secondary schools.

Teacher aides care for some of the most vulnerable children in schools, and can deal with challenging behaviour every day, yet 90 percent of them are paid less than the Living Wage ($21.15 per hour).

The Ministry’s offer of a $21.15 per hour minimum was accepted by members last week. All support staff currently earning at or above $21.15 per hour will receive an increase of 3 percent on printed rates and all members will receive a further 3 percent increase on printed rates in 12 months’ time.

An NZEI spokesperson says the pay rise for all those currently paid less than the Living Wage – which will mean an increase of as much as 19.5 percent for staff on the minimum wage – will be funded by an increase in schools’ operations grants.

Meanwhile, the union enters talks with the Ministry over pay equity this week.

Issues to be hammered out here include improving job security for teacher aides – more than 60 percent are on fixed term contracts, with no certainty of employment and no pay over the holidays.

NZEI says that the discussions aim to address the historical undervaluation of the role. The union wants the pay scale to take into consideration a person’s qualifications, experience, responsibility and skill.

“We are arguing these roles are crucial to children’s education and the school’s functioning. So they need to be properly remunerated and secure jobs,” the spokesperson says.

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