School support staff members have taken legal action against an “unfair and illegal” cut in their fortnightly pay packets.

NZEI Te Riu Roa, on behalf of the support staff, took the Ministry of Education to the Employment Relations Authority today over the decision by Novopay to reduce the fortnightly pay of 6000 annualised support staff by 3.7% for an entire year.

The ERA has indicated it will issue its decision in the next fortnight which will hopefully put an end to what many support staff see as an illogical interpretation of the calendar and collective agreement.

In the meantime the decision has continued to cause  huge amounts of stress for  support staff – some have had their pay cut by up to $50 a pay and for many,  the pay cuts mean they have to cut back on essentials such as groceries and food.

Novopay claims the reason for the reduction is that there are “27 pay periods this year”.

However, NZEI’s lawyer Peter Cranny, argued that the ministry’s arbitrary decision to reduce the pay of annualised staff to make up for a calendar technicality was illegal under the terms of the collective agreement.

He said it was wrong to spread the pay over 54 weeks, or 378 days, which is what the ministry has done – given that there are normally only 365 days.

Many support staff travelled from around the country today’s hearing.  Among them was Christchurch-based school office administrator Kay Addei  who spoke to media about the hardship this was causing many staff who are the lowest paid people in the sector.

The support staff were supported by teachers and parents including mother, Danielle Davies, whose daughter Abacus has Downs Syndrome and requires a teachers’ aide.

Danielle told TV3 newshub reporter Emily Cooper that the treatment of support staff has been appalling. “They’re already paid quite low and the work they do is so profound, they should be treated with respect.”