The Start of Change for Good – The First Week of the Pay Parity Campaign

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First Week of the Pay Parity Campaign.
October 8, 2019.

We launched the campaign last Tuesday, 1st October 2019 after preparing a campaign book.

The seeds of this campaign were planted amongst ECE teachers years ago as their pay slipped further and further behind their teaching peers in kindergarten, primary and secondary, even though they needed to meet qualification and identical professional requirements for teacher certification.

Evidence from a number of surveys conducted by us indicated  concerns in the sector were growing about the quality of ECE and safety for both children and teachers. Teacher feedback was disputed by some employer sector groups and the ministry. So today, we have skilled teachers turning their back on working in ECE, a loosening of requirements for staffing, and employer demand from the Early Childhood Council for migrant labour (overseas teachers). 

Then, at almost the same time two things happened; kindergartens retained parity with primary teachers (resulting in a significant pay rise) and Dr Sarah Alexander convened the first mass meeting on ECE teachers’ pay. The seeds germinated and we began working in a focused fashion.

A lot of time went into planning a campaign and into producing material to explain and support the campaign. That took longer than we had hoped, but by the end of September we were ready enough to launch.

Attempts to have a constructive dialogue with NZEI were made but rejected and ridiculed. We would still love NZEI to jump on board and argue with us that there is no reason why today the government cannot fund pay parity and the Ministry of Education cannot ensure that teachers working in a non-kindergarten are properly remunerated, but so far that has not been possible. 

NZEI’s 11%

Until the day after we launched the pay parity campaign NZEI had been adamant that they would only pursue a pay equity campaign.  Nothing else would do.  Despite their undertakings in the ECECA, they would not contemplate the pursuit of pay parity. They said that everyone had to support their pay equity campaign.  Then on Wednesday 2nd October they suddenly changed their position. What everyone now had to do was support an immediate 11% pay rise linked to the ECECA.  ECE teachers were asked to provide their contact details when saying that they would like an 11% pay rise – but note that the NZEI cannot deliver a pay rise as it is neither an employer nor the government.

We have to remember that many centres have gone away from the existing ECECA because they found it to be unaffordable. Centres are in very different financial positions.  Some have large rent bills to pay, others do not. Some have a parent base that can pay large fees, others do not. Some have a very high percentage of qualified teachers, others less so.  How any pay increase gets funded will be key to its success.

The NZEI’s announcement is very thin on facts. Their website has little content and asks people to vote for this statement: “I support an immediate pay jolt of 11% to start closing the gap and a stepped-out pay plan from government to fix the pay gap FOR GOOD.”

That is a statement that the vast majority of ECE teachers are likely to support. Who wouldn’t want 11% now and a plan to achieve the same pay as kindergarten teachers?  However, there is no detail about how the 11% will be measured, distributed or applied. There is no discussion about how the pay gap might be fixed “for good”.  If you have voted for the NZEI’s 11% statement, and provided your contact details, then hopefully you will be happy to receive the requests to join NZEI that you will receive.

If NZEI got the government to agree a real 11% pay rise, how would that get funded? The government does not know what people are paid at the moment, so how could it agree to an 11% raise to an unknown number? Just increasing the funding rates in the ECE Funding Handbook by 11% would be potentially messy and not be a complete solution.  Centres charge fees and rely on these to meet some of their wage bill. Will NZEI suggest, or the government tell, centres that they have to increase their fees by 11%?  That’s way above CPI, so parents would protest.  It’s also called price fixing and probably not legal.

The whole thing is very messy, and NZEI do not yet have a clear explanation of how they will deliver 11% to all those who respond and provide their contact details. 

We would love to have the evidence to allow support for their initiative, but so far there is little evidence that their 11% initiative will “fix the pay gap FOR GOOD” by delivering, or even being a step towards, pay parity.

We will update you as the situation clarifies. 

Best regards from your pay parity steering group,
Dr Sarah Alexander, Karen Girvan and David Haynes

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