NZEI teacher aide pay equity negotiation team: (from l. to r.) Fa’a Sisnett, Annie Te Moana, Marcia Martin, Sue Poole, Ally Kemplen and Andrea Andrews.
NZEI teacher aide pay equity negotiation team: (from l. to r.) Fa’a Sisnett, Annie Te Moana, Marcia Martin, Sue Poole, Ally Kemplen and Andrea Andrews.

New Zealand: Historic pay equity increase for education support personnel

published 3 June 2020 updated 4 June 2020

In New Zealand, education unionists have won historic pay equity increases for education support personnel. Over 22,000 school teacher aides have been offered a life-changing pay equity settlement including pay increases of up to 28 per cent.

This follows a pay equity process that NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiated with the Ministry of Education in 2016. The pay deal, which is backdated to 12 February, is the biggest pay equity settlement since that in 2017 for 55,000 caregivers.

Taken together with living wage pay increases won during collective bargaining in late-2019, most teacher aides are now in line to receive pay increases of 23-34 per cent during 2020 – an increase of NZ$4 (€2.20)-NZ$6.60 (€3.80) an hour. This acknowledges the value of teacher aides’ skills, responsibilities, and experience that has been undervalued on the basis of gender. Schools will also be funded to pay the increased rates.

In the coming weeks, all teacher aides will have the opportunity to discuss the details before voting online to endorse the settlement.

NZEI Te Riu Roa: A huge win for teacher aides and for women

Liam Rutherford, president of NZEI Te Riu Roa– an EI affiliate – highlighted that 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 added that he was confident that “this settlement also paves the way for pay equity settlements for other support staff groups, such as administrators and Kaiārahi i te Reo– Special Education Assistants – which we are looking to progress as quickly as possible”.

New work-grading matrix

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

NZEI T e Riu Roa members will be able to access union support and member workshops to ensure 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.

The New Zealand Herald: Significant step

The “New Zealand Herald”, a daily newspaper, highlighted that “the deal, costing about $70 million a year, will transform teacher aides from an insecure group mostly paid only the minimum wage into an attractive profession starting on 88 per cent of the wage of a fully trained beginning teacher”.

It said that this win represents a significant step towards closing New Zealand's persistent gender pay gap of 11 per cent between average hourly earnings for men and women. The newspaper included examples, such as prison guards, who are mainly male and have a starting salary of NZ$53,444. That is 44 per cent higher than what is earned by teacher aides, who are 86 per cent female. Teacher aides only started receiving the minimum wage in late-2019. This pay equity deal will increase the teacher aides' starting rate from NZ$17.70 (€1.10) to NZ$21.20 (€12.10) an hour, or NZ$44,096 (€28.25) for a full-time role. This is substantial progress even if it is still 21 per cent lower than a prison guard’s starting salary.