Support staff are the professionals at the heart of our schools and centres. They hold it together for all of us. But who’s holding it together for support staff?  Support staff pay is already bulkfunded from the ops grant – making the hours uncertain and the pay low.

Now, the government has announced it will freeze ops grant funding so it will be harder to get a decent wage rise. But there is good news. The Education Funding Review offers us the chance to defeat bulkfunding for teachers and to change how support staff are funded.

The support staff campaign for better funding runs alongside the campaign for better funding for the education of our children.

This term, support staff will be bargaining for a new collective agreement. We need to break the ops grant freeze so that wage increases can be funded.

Better funding for support staff Better learning for children.

Visit betterfunding.org.nz/supportstaff and sign the petition that calls for a thaw on operations grant funding.

The freeze on schools’ operations grants, announced in the Budget, is a threat to decent wage increases and job security for support staff. Support staff need you to sign the petition!

Pay equity

Meantime, the brave workers who stood up to take a case to the High Court over pay equity have won another victory.

Pay equity recognises that some jobs, such as teacher aides and community support workers, are paid less because the work is done predominantly by women.

After a win in the courts, the government set up a working party, which set out principles to address pay equity claims. The principles have been welcomed as they allow members to address their claims through bargaining – rather than being tied up for years in the courts.

As EA went to press, members were waiting on government to publish the principles, as agreed.

“Sacrificing our future to make ends meet”

This year, support staff who annualise their pay had it cut by 3.7% by Novopay because of the way pay periods fell.

Twice NZEI support staff have challenged the move in the courts – and won! In mediation after the legal decisions, NZEI members presented various solutions to the problem of a calendar quirk that puts 27 pay periods into a year, every 11 years. These solutions, involving longer time periods and different divisors to calculate annualised pay, would avoid the 3.7% cut. Members would have been back-paid for the cut, and fortnightly payments would have gone on as usual.

But instead of reaching a reasonable agreement, the Ministry of Education unilaterally decided to back-pay the pay cut, and reinstate pay rates, but NOT pay support staff at all for a fortnight in February.

The uncertainty caused by the ministry’s actions over this has caused distress for support staff, with many on low incomes and precarious hours. Members have already suffered enough. As one put it, “Stopping KiwiSaver to allow a little bit extra to buy food for the little human.”

The ministry’s actions appear designed to drive a wedge between members. In response, NZEI has taken the case back to court. An urgent hearing was being sought. Stronger together!

Keep it free

World Educators Day – October 29.

Invite friends, family, colleagues – we’ll be out on the streets, telling it like it is: Better funding for support staff, better learning for children.