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Hugo van Stratum: Speech at the ECE Teacher Pay mass meeting.
July 14, 2019.

Hugo van Stratum, early childhood teacher (recently retired
Farewell party for Hugo on his retirement from teaching

Kia ora I am Hugo van Stratum.

Who here are on individual contracts like me?
How many of you on an individual contract sit with your employers to review your pay annually?
Who are on collective contracts?
No contract?

I am a qualified ECE teacher.
I have been on an individual contract for my ECE work life for 8 years working at one early childhood company, and know that even with all the secrecy around pay in that the company they were paying the minimum.

Cheap are student teachers, provisionally registered teachers working as head teachers, non qualified “teachers” on the minimum wage. I worked with “teachers” that were paid 40% less than I was and I was on the beginning teacher’s rate. 

I have come to this meeting because I remain very concerned about the abysmal pay levels of our wonderful, hardworking, and passionate early childhood teachers in my centre.

My wife works in primary and I have seen the disparity between us even though we are both equally qualified teachers. $12,00 to 20,000 difference per year is a lot; now disparity is due to go up to about $30,000 difference with primary at $80000 on the top of the scale Q3.

Can Education Minister Chris Hipkins work some magic for us in ECE?

I have been asking questions about why and where differences lie to go to the new equity Bill select committee submissions. How come groups totally comparable are not being paid fairly yet it’s happening under all the clear equity laws we have. It’s simple the people who should be applying the laws are not doing it.

This is what I have learnt. Some employers value staff more than others so make the effort to pay okay wages but others value affordability for parents and for the competitiveness edge they hold the lid on wages. Mainly it’s our ECE Bunk funding from Government that is the cause of our low ECE pay. The funding Government gives is barely enough to pay our wages definitely not enough to run our centres; eg. parents have to make up a huge difference. Our “equitable” pay often goes to other ECE centre costs because there is not enough money. We staff are subsidising ECE.

You can see why my boss wanted to be competitive to be cheaper for parents to use our centres; yet it costs us teachers our pay.

We are not being treated fairly
Owners blame the Government for lack of funds. Yet staff do nothing about it because it is such an institutional inequity based in the fabric of the system. How can you fight for rights when you have no democratic power in your company? Your owner is the benefactor the hinge pin, ruler of the business. 

The inadequate funding model causes the discrimination and inequalities and lack of accountability of ECE service providers to fairly look after their staff. It is thought possibly the profits go to the shareholders, or are there profits going toward things like the company building more centres?

Who has seen profit? We just don’t know; we don’t get to see big ECE business accounts. Not hard to know there is not enough money to go round though. 

Government set the standards for curriculum, premises, facilities, health and safely, but don’t do a good job on setting the standards for pay and working conditions of teachers and staff of ECE.

The Education ministry bases its funding decisions on the average running cost of ECE services. For years calculations on that average cost would have included unjust low wages of ECE staff.

So many ECE businesses will only pay teachers the minimum beginning teacher wage no matter how many years they have been teaching. Pay parity with other teachers in the education sector is not considered.

Feeling guilty for wanting more
Teachers are made very aware that if they dare ask to be paid a fair wage, parents fees would be increased and the company would be less competitive for getting their share of children from the limited child pool available. Money is always such a worry. So we don’t demand what is fair. Therefore we the teachers in ECE are left subsidising ECE centres.

ECE it is still a Charity education
Community and big business still run ECE because people are being charitable looking after children of parents who need to work. 

Seems like profit is not a motive of ECE services, but survival is, breaking even is, and growth and squeezing out competitors can be a motive for cost cutting by some operators to be competitive.

Many centres who try to be fair and pay a better wage than the minimum set by the ministry do so at the risk of going badly into debt. The teachers pay problem’s solution should be Government accountability. There is pay parity for primary and secondary teachers. There should be pay parity with them for all early childhood teachers too!

What have I learnt is having wealthy capital behind buys you land and building; owners get wealthier here in assets. If you are private and cash poor you are going to struggle with the mortgage.

Owners are working so hard to provide ECE in NZ. We teachers are behind them in wanting Government to back ECE to the max in supporting these businesses and their dedicated people.

Government’s pathetic attitude
Even though Government pays out a huge $2 billion in subsidies to ECE services; Ministers and the education officials have this weak response when asked about fair pay for ECE teachers and staff: they say that:

ECE companies are private business and can do what they want with that funding.

But I say:

The ministry and ministers are too weak willed to support the countries ECE teachers.

They have this ridiculous idea that they can make the laws on equity and fairness and not enforce them. The Education Ministry has golden policies on Equal opportunities and Equity but don’t apply them to us their ECE teachers I ask you what kind of corrupted state funding set up have we got when money is dished out and nothing is specified about the details and quality of its use for number one expense the staff.

Nothing but nothing stops the Minister or Ministry saying you are only going to get this funding if you pay teachers State parity rates of pay
Only then will we see the true cost of ECE education and care. Here’s an example of ministry fudged funding – When I work as reliever in a primary school I am paid around $58 an hour child contact time, yet I do the same in an early childhood service and I’m lucky to get $28 (and that includes holiday pay). 

One Education sector get lots more than us. Which one is that?
Funding for ECE will be lots higher than primary because our teacher ratios are so much lower. 1 to 4 is very expensive. Yet when you compare us to the elite Tertiary they gets much more funding, double ours for the same number of pupils; less student contact time and longer holidays like more than a quarter of the year. Plus Government pays students fees for them, yes for a whole year in the first year. That would save Parents in ECE $13,000 a year or so. Is there anything in expectations of tertiary staff that we don’t have to do?

How many ECE teachers have partners with better paid jobs so the bills get paid?

Is your pay the main income all good to buy a house and support a mortgage and save for your retirement?

We have to protect our fellow early childhood teacher’s conditions of employment by sticking together.

Some ECE businesses only pay teachers the minimum beginning teacher wage because that is the base line set down in our attestation, meaning there is no career structure for teachers.

Primary have done their thing and got you a beginning teacher rate up to $56,000 from $48,000. It will be interesting to see what will happen to ECE as this jump is more than has happened in the last ten years that I know of. This basic beginning teacher rate has been so strongly held down low by the ministry in contract talks with primary. They have disregarding inflationary pressures and you know why because it would push the cost of ECE up markedly.

Who get 20 days annual leave a year?
They call it 4 weeks holidays = 28 days that sounds better but we only get 20 days as the others are weekend days.

In our attestation The Union and Education Ministry decide that the teachers who get paid for 40 weeks work and you who work 48 weeks should be paid the same total for the year. Lots of ECE teachers work two months more a year then Primary. No compensation considered.

Our attestation is about equal pay to other beginning state teachers only. Not good enough it should be parity all the way through the scales the years of service. Justice laws on equal pay for equal work. means “Parity”. Our attestation should be; can be and must be set in parity to pay scales of other sector teachers.
Take care. Even your security of your poor pay attestation has been under attack.

Peter Reynolds the CEO of the so called “Early Childhood Council” which really is an owners organisation with close ties to Kindercare, has the nerve to think ECE teachers get paid too much and at the MoE’s Funding Advisory Group wanted to get rid of wage attestation – our comparison to other teachers. That attestation which is pretty weak and unfairly calculated; that which holds many of us ECE teachers to the beginning teachers pay as it is the basic minimum owners have to pay teachers regardless of length of service and experience. That beginning teacher wage an ECE degree; = $46000.  But Mr Reynolds still argues on behalf of centre providers in his group that it’s too much money to pay out. Other teachers have their years of experience written in as their career path – not so for many ECE teachers. I suppose Mr Reynolds is worried that the beginning primary teachers salary would go up and cost ECE a lot more. It has happened $55,000 and where will another $9000 come from to pay the beginning teachers in our funding?

My boss has been in the ECE business for 22 years and says for profit investors are going to be disappointed because there is no profit. Even well run, full occupancy, centres don’t make sufficient profit. He has turned the business into a charitable trust. A good idea to save on GST and other tax I suppose. 

So how is profit making affecting staff in say Evolve centres or Kindercare centres, how are they doing? What pressures and stress are you experiencing?

For my centre to break even it means sending teachers home after half a day’s work because the numbers of sick children are such; ratios are out of kilter, this is even though parents have to pay and the ministry. Who are the teachers sent home? Those on no set contracts – the lowest pay and non qualified teachers.

Who has 38 hours child contact a week?
Who has 35 hours?
Who has 30 hours?

The union organized Attestation with the Education Ministry for you and they did not do a good job. NZEI have not corrected the mistakes to ensure attestation is line with the primary teachers salary scale.

Why?  Because ECE teachers you are not sorting out your political situation.  You are not telling NZEI what they have to achieve on your behalf. The compulsory primary sector do 5 hours child contact a day and we often do 8 hours per day!  You work so hard!  You deserve better!

Teachers unless you are Unionised you have no voice in ECE. No one is there to speak to Government on private ECE issue but owners and the likes of Peter Reynolds.  There is no teacher’s forum. So Sarah and ChildForm are having to do it for you.

Even within your companies you may, like I was, be on individual contracts; you would have no pay talks; they roll your pay over with the announcement about your pay assessment. It an assessment without your input. You don’t get invited so you don’t voice any option in the matter. You might be lucky to get a yearly cost of living adjustment of 1.2% “if you have been good”. Lots didn’t because money was tight.

Laws and being paid an hourly rate
By law if you are on an hourly rate then whenever you are asked to do work by your manager or head teacher you must be paid for it. Parent evenings, Professional development, even homework from your staff meetings. Action plans, philosophies, planning, self reviews, reflections, children’s reports, self appraisals are all work you should be getting paid for. Well you can laugh; it is law but in the real world of ECE most of us are taking unpaid work home.

On my questioning of my business manager on unpaid work she used to say “Don’t do it Hugo.” What a cop out comment from her. What help was that to running a centre and being responsible to your team’s efforts. We only had two hours of non-contact time a week to cope with every admin thing. We are accountable in so many ways to so many groups: parent, children, centre management, regional management and ERO.

For us 2 hours a week of non-contact time with so much to get done is such a short time. Having 2 hours a week “non contact” is a big saving on employing staff but does nothing towards achieving expectations of supporting learning, organizing activities or making games. The paper work was not able to be done either. Often overzealous expectation make for work pressure. When expectations are not being meet it’s all too common in ECE for staff to feel they are failing, but they are not as the problem is just over the top workloads.

Take note make your voice heard politically. In unity even if you are on an individual contract
ECE teachers need to have a strong voice and that can’t be provided by the union NZEI unless all ECE teachers join the union, but of course many can’t afford union fees. Get even a part union membership as a reliever at $2.50 per fortnight will give you a voice.

With Sarah Alexander supporting us, after this meeting we should continue to meet as a ECE teachers forum that includes community and private sector so all ECE teachers are part of one voice. ECE teachers need to stand in unity.  We are all paid by the state so should all be in the state sector.

So much to deal with:

  • Work loads.
  • Dirt money.
  • Call backs. Finish at 4pm 5:30 and expected back at 6 for a staff meeting.
  • Lack of Sleep rooms
  • Democracy: The companies that don’t want staff or parent interference in the politics of education as they think it is the boss’s role.
  • Child advocacy: Group numbers and ratios.

Owners don’t stir enough about teachers pay when dealing with Government and the MoE
The trouble is owners are held over a barrel by having to dipping in to state coffers without the compulsory education label. Labour does not like partnership schools yet has to deal with ECE in that same partnership context. National did not fund ECE like they did Partnership Schools. Labour wants to gets rid of these schools but we the oldest partners are still here. Give us the same sort of funding partner schools were getting. Everything paid for.

.. END

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