After much negotiation, NZEI Te Riu Roa’s kindergarten teacher members voted to accept a settlement of their collective agreement that retains pay parity with their primary colleagues.
Lead negotiator for the union Virginia Oakly says that while she’s happy kindergarten teachers have achieved a significant pay increase, the hard work must continue in order to improve pay and conditions for the rest of the early childhood sector.
“We’re really pleased that kindergarten teachers have achieved a pay increase and have retained pay parity with primary and secondary teachers. We do still need to address pay rates and work conditions across the wider early childhood sector and we’ll continue working toward that as well as looking at opportunities to address workload and wellbeing in other forums,” she says.
There are currently 654 kindergartens and another 2584 ECE centres operating in education and care.
Kathy Wolfe, Chief Executive of Te Rito Maioha, Early Childhood New Zealand says there is a real risk that teachers will be enticed to shift to kindergartens creating an even further challenge in attracting and retaining teachers in the rest of the sector.
“It is great the kindergarten teachers have maintained pay parity with primary school teachers. However, this will create disparity with the rest of the early childhood sector.
Wolfe says the sector is already facing significant shortages and attention needs to turn to attracting more people to the ECE workforce.
“One way to do that is to ensure all ECE qualified teachers, not just those working at kindergartens, are paid at the same level as their primary school peers. After all, the degree qualifications held by kindergarten teachers and qualified teachers in the rest of the ECE sector are the same. Receiving equitable pay will show ECE qualified teachers that they are valued as an integral part of New Zealand’s education system.
“We are advocating that greater investment is required to both attract more people into the ECE teaching profession, and to retain them once qualified. People who have put in the time and effort required to become qualified in ECE teaching should be properly paid, and ECE services must have the money to support their teachers’ ongoing professional learning and development (PLD), after all a teacher is a teacher is a teacher.
“Government subsidies need to increase for the entire sector, otherwise ECE centres will struggle to maintain high quality education for our youngest and precious citizens. The 1.8% increase to funding announced in the budget that the Minister repeatedly refers to does not nearly meet the cost increases of employing highly qualified and experienced teachers. Who is impacted by this the most? Our tamariki and their whanau!”
NZEI Te Riu Roa is currently progressing pay equity claims for other early childhood teachers in the sector. The union says this is the best way to address the historic undervaluing of early childhood teaching.