What is Going on With ECE Teacher Pay?

What's Happening With ECE Teacher Pay.  
By David Haynes.  
August 3, 2021.  

david haynes profileRight now there are a lot of initiatives, announcements, pronouncements, discussions and social media conversations and opinions surrounding ECE teacher pay.  It is easy to be confused.  This short article is intended to help you to understand what is going on.

Things can be broken down into:

  • Pay parity, and
  • Pay equity.

Pay Parity

Pay parity means all certificated teachers working in ECE having their pay raised so that it is at parity with (the same as) their colleagues working in primary schools and with their ECE colleagues already covered by the Kindergarten Teachers, Head Teachers and Senior Teachers’ Collective Agreement (KTCA).  ChildForum has been actively advocating for this since the ECE Teacher Pay mass meeting in July 2019. 

Before the last election the Labour Party made pay parity in the next term of government a core committment and asked for your votes on that basis. 

The Minister is trying to take steps towards pay parity.  This is commendable, indeed on 12 May 2021 the Minister announced his “major step to pay parity for early learning teachers”. This is the initiative that promises additional funds to those employers who promise to pay their qualified teachers at the first six (of eleven) steps on the KTCA pay scale.  Unfortunately, and based on advice from MoE, Cabinet has yet to allocate sufficient funds to this “major step” to make it available to more than a tiny minority of ECE centres.

So, we have been promised pay parity in this term of government, but sufficient funds have not yet been budgetted and, as at May 2021 MoE had not even scoped the work necessary.  But what about pay equity?

Pay Equity

Pay equity is about removing disparity in pay based on gender.  The Pay Equity Act (the Act) was amended in 2020 to make it easier for pay equity claims to be raised and to allow individual employees, not just unions, to raise claims.  The day that the amendments to the Act came into force two things happened:

  • The NZEI submitted a union claim with very wide coverage. It included not just those ECE teachers who did not have pay parity, but also those covered by the KTCA as well as unqualified teachers and, as potentially affected parties, primary school teachers.  The PPTA has also raised a claim and this has been consolidate with the NZEI one into one claim covering all teachers.  Because the Secretary for Education acts as the employer for members of the education service, MoE is an employer party to the consolidated claim and must agree with the other employers how the claim process will proceed.
  • A number of individual teachers submitted pay equity claims and asked David Haynes to represent them. Subsequently, many more teachers have asked David to represent them.  These individual claims are all from certificated teachers who are not NZEI members.  Union members must be represented by their union.

Recently, employers have been asked to comment on the Multi-Employer Process Agreement (MEPA) that employers must agree in order to coordinate their responses to the consolidated NZEI/PPTA claim.  The draft MEPA states that “The work to investigate the teachers claim could extend over several years.”  Given the very wide coverage of the consolidated claim it is no surprise that negotiations are likely to be protracted.

Also related to the consolidated NZEI/PPTA claim, that claim has been deemed to be ‘arguable’.  ‘Arguability’ is a term used in the Act.  All it means is that the claim relates to work that is or was predominantly performed by female employees and it is arguable that the work is currently undervalued or has historically been undervalued.  MoE has reminded the other employers (remember MoE is itself one of the employers) that, as required by the Act, they must inform all non-union staff who may be affected by the claim that it has been made and how they may be affected by it.  Unfortunately, MoE’s suggested draft letter to employees did not adequately explain how this affected those who have already submitted individual claims.  David Haynes has asked MoE to update its suggested draft letter.

In contrast to this, the individual claims are all from a clearly defined group; certificated teachers in ECE who are not covered by the KTCA.  Also, what is claimed and the legal responsibilities of employers, including notifications about ‘arguability’, were clearly specified in the claim document.  The mechanism for retaining pay equity after settlement has been reached was also specified in the claim document.  In terms of progressing the individual claims, many employers were very quick to accept that the claims were ‘arguable’.  This was because the arguability was so obvious and because the employers were keen to act in good faith as good employers.

The Cabinet has approved a process for the oversight of pay equity claims in the ‘funded sector’, which includes ECE.  Unfortunately, following this process does not automatically free up the funds needed to pay for the outcome agreed between employers and employees.  Before asking parties who believe that they have completed negotiations to sign pay claim settlements, David Haynes is currently working to get clarity from government on how funds will be released so that settlements, including new pay rates, can be entered into in good faith.  Hopefully this will not take the years that are forecast for the consolidated NZEI/PPTA claim.

Conclusions

The Minister is working towards fulfilling the government’s promise of pay parity in this term of government, ie in little over two years from now.  

The consolidated NZEI/PPTA pay equity claim “could extend over a number of years”.  It is therefore not a solution for non-‘kindergarten’ ECE teachers to achieve fair pay in the immediate future.

The scope of the individual claims being represented by David Haynes is limited; the individual claims are from certificated teachers working in ECE who are not covered by the KTCA.  What is claimed is clearly specified.  Finalising negotiations should therefore be simple and should not “extend over a number of years”.  The current sticking point is that government funding of the outcome of individual negotiations needs to be guaranteed, and at present it is not. 

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