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Karen Girvan: "The pay realities for teachers when moving from a kindergarten setting into another community ECE setting"

ECE Teacher Pay meeting Karen GirvanKia ora koutou. My name is Karen Girvan and I am an early childhood teacher from Taupo.

I have been teaching in early childhood for 11 years. I hold a Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) along with a post grad in specialist teaching (early intervention) which was awarded to me in 2015. As such I am a fully qualified early intervention teacher and a degree holding fully qualified ece teacher.

I have worked in free kindergartens within both the Waikato and the Heretaunga associations for 10 years of my career. Recently I have taught in private for-profit and in community not-for-profit centres.

My shift out of working in the Free Kindergarten setting (which has pay parity with primary, much higher funding rates and so on) to working in other centres, has meant I have taken a $10 PER HOUR pay drop.

I hope the new kgtn collective agreement currently being negotiated maintains parity with the primary teachers’ pay scale, and as you know primary teachers have recently won a big pay increase.

But it will mean that the disparity in wages for me as an early childhood teacher will be even greater. By not working with older children in a primary school setting or in the free kindergarten setting but working in another publicly funded and licenced early childhood education setting, I will be effectively earning $14 LESS PER HOUR once pay parity within the kgtn collective is renewed.

Let me make this clear. That means that I am being paid $14 less PER HOUR than another teacher with the same University qualification, experience and expertise doing EXACTLY THE SAME JOB.  Why are teachers discriminated against by the type of setting they work in? As early childhood teachers we are indeed the Cinderella. We are treated badly. We are not valued.  

It's appalling. Its degrading, it is ignorant. And kindergarten teachers being paid more is unfair and there is no justification for it.

Sadly I hear fellow ece teachers say, "yep we get paid a pittance, but we love our jobs". But the wage is one that is very difficult to live on if you wish to live independently.  Why should our love for children and support of them be used against us to make us compliant, to make us slaves, to make it that we have to accept and be grateful for any wage?

But we accept it because we are dumbed down, and that's where that thinking comes from. A dumbed down space.

Financially poor wages means I'm worried a lot. After groceries, mtge, rates and basic utility bills there's nothing left week to week. I have 2 children who are financially dependent on me. I'm 51 years old and I need to build a nest egg for my retirement.

NZEI currently has a pay equity claim movement happening for ece. There is a historical legal mechanism in place providing a lever for us to succeed in this "predominantly women's work" claim. 

But we are teaching professionals. We deserve more than pay equity. It’s showing that NZ society does not value its young children when there is such discrimination in pay.  We want and we deserve pay PARITY, NOT PAY EQUITY.

I know pay in ece is complicated. Issues include some private centres operating solely for the purpose of profiteering, collective vs individual contracts, and having a strong union membership, or not. But the govt can make changes. If they wanted to.

ECE services do not all pass on funding to teachers that is provided in the funding incentive for the employment of qualified teachers.  The minimum wage levels set by the Ministry for attestation to receive funding for employing certificated teachers are very low.

It’s seen to be acceptable that employers pay very low wages and we see lobbyists for some service providers crying out for more funding due to a teacher shortage that they have essentially created because of their treatment of teachers.

The power lies with Govt and the ministry to influence ECE wages - not with the union. Pay parity is possible through a central funding model where all licenced ECE services that employ qualified and certificated teachers receive the same percentage funding rates and the same rules under which to administer it (ie high proportion must be used as wages).

But we have to make the govt WANT TO.  Us teachers are getting restless. But are we restless enough?

I believe not. I believe we need to get out there in the media on the back of the recent massive primary and secondary coverage and tell the New Zealand public the truth. Lay the disparity out there.

Stand with free kindergartens right to be paid the same as primary and secondary teachers and demand the same for all teachers whatever licensed ECE service they work in. March to the steps of parliament en mass. Contact our local MPs...all of these things and more.

I personally have written twice over the past few months to both Jacinda Adern and Chris Hipkins voicing my concerns over ece teachers’ pay. I've had one reply, with Chris Hipkins referring me to the 10-year early childhood education strategic plan coming out sometime.

A 10-year plan? No not good enough. Not good enough. We need change and we need it now. 

A teacher, is a teacher, is a teacher. 

He rau ka tua. Better times are coming. Thank you.

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