NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education today signed Terms of Settlement to address a pay equity claim for 329 Ministry of Education support workers providing support to young children with additional learning needs.
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.
Ministry of Education Support Workers Jacoline Brink, Kathleen Power, Mary Jones and Denise Tetzlaff led the negotiations on behalf of their colleagues, and were elated with the settlement which includes an immediate pay increase of up to 30% and further increases over three years for all Education Communications and Behaviour Support Workers employed by the Ministry.
Jacoline Brink said she was really looking forward to the future, and finally being paid fairly for her work and contribution.
“It took longer than expected, but I'm grateful to the Ministry for coming to the table, and for NZEI supporting us on this journey. I really hope our success in getting to this point is an encouragement to our education colleagues in ECE and school support staff, who are working with the Ministry on their own settlements," she said.
"Having a Prime Minister who is committed to supporting us as female workers has helped. This has been a long struggle for us, but we have made speedier progress under the new Government that is showing it values women workers."
"Recognising and valuing us also means a recognition and valuing of the children we work with."
NZEI and the Ministry will jointly present the settlement to all Ministry-employed Support Workers at meetings around the country over the next month, where they will vote to accept or reject the settlement.
The settlement is the culmination of a journey that began 12 years ago. NZEI had spent several years in pay equity processes under the previous Labour Government, before the National Government scrapped the pay equity unit in 2008 and refused to consider pay equity claims in collective agreement negotiations.
It wasn't until 2015, following the successful Terranova proceedings taken by Kristine Bartlett and the then Service and Food Workers’ Union, that NZEI filed a pay equity case in the Employment Relations Authority on behalf of Ministry-employed Support Workers.
The process to jointly examine the claim and reach agreement took 17 months to complete after mediation began in April 2017.
The workforce is currently paid between $16.77 and $19.87. If accepted, the settlement would see the lowest hourly rates move to $21.67 with a new top step of $24.73 for those who have done four to nine years’ service. Support workers with ten or more years’ 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 on permanent variable hours’ employment agreements and establishes a working group to identify appropriate qualifications and career pathways for support workers by 1 July 2019.