Pay parity is politically still at least years away from being implemented for the teachers of around 153,000 children in publicly-funded early childhood education.
But the political hand is to be challenged using the Equal Pay Amendment Act 2020. The Act allows individuals to make a claim for equal pay. It allows those individuals to appoint a representative, and that representative does not have to be a union.
This is significant says David Haynes of the Pay Parity Steering Group, because the vast majority of the more than 17,000 qualified ECE teachers working in services other than kindergartens are not supported by NZEI.
Labour has promised pay parity in its next term if re-elected and its 2020 election policy outlines a four-year budget for boosting pay.
But David Haynes said that without wishing to pre-judge the election outcome, he did not think that asking unfairly underpaid ECE teachers to wait for three or four more years for pay parity to happen, if it happened, was good enough.
“The Minister of Education has stated that these teachers are underpaid. That underpayment should be corrected immediately,” said Mr Haynes.
Prior to this Amendment Act proof was required that the differential in pay was due to gender. That is no longer the case. A teacher can now claim to be paid as a teacher, on par with kindergarten and school teachers.
A new initiative is being launched to inform teachers of this and support them to achieve pay parity. The initiative comes out of the Pay Parity Campaign spearheaded by the ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education (find out more here: https://www.childforum.com/pay-parity.html)
Mr Haynes will represent teachers (without charge) who ask to be represented by him in putting forward a claim.
Mr Haynes said that employers have nothing to fear.
“Enough claims with employer support for equal pay should force the Ministry of Education to provide funding for pay parity for all certificated ECE teachers. The current biased and unfair system discriminates against teachers who are not based in kindergartens,” he said.
Many services have already signed an undertaking with the ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education that they will pay their teachers at pay parity rates if they are funded at kindergarten funding rates.
Chief executive of ChildForum Dr Sarah Alexander said that early childhood teachers often earn far less than they could elsewhere with their levels of education and skills.
“It’s children that suffer when their teachers are undervalued to make cost savings.
“Quality teaching is a key lever for improving outcomes for young children, but how can we ensure there is quality teaching and care for children if we can’t attract and retain qualified and skilled teachers due to low pay? The answer is we can’t.
“Pay parity will give early childhood teachers recognition for their training and skills and help the sector develop and retain highly-skilled staff because the learning and wellbeing of young children matter,” said Dr Alexander.
Under this new Act, the first step for an employer is to determine if the claim is 'arguable', and communications to employers and government would flow from there.
About the new initiative:
- Pay parity with other teachers is the objective.
- A claim that seeks a minimum of kindergarten teacher pay rates for all certificated teachers working in ECE has been prepared by David Haynes who will represent individual teachers who wish to be represented by him.
- Existing education sector collective agreements are 'useful and relevant'. We don't have to go looking for comparable work performed by men when we already have other teachers as a 'useful and relevant' comparison. Prior to this Amendment Act an equity claim had to prove that the differential in pay was due to gender (try telling 'kindergarten' teachers that they are men!). That is no longer the case. A teacher is a teacher is a teacher.
- The claim includes additional pay elements from the recent Teacher Aides’ settlement. Also, any settlement that results from this claim will be requested to be backdated.
- NZEI has shown little interest in ECE that is not kindergarten over a long period of time, and only started talking about 'pay parity' once ChildForum's work had persuaded the Minister of Education to start using that term. NZEI ignored an approach from David Haynes suggesting a discussion about pay parity. They tried to close down ChildForum's Pay Parity campaign and instead get the Steering Group to support their unfocused initiatives. They tried to take the more than 15,000 signature strong pay parity petition started by teacher James Lochead-MacMillan, which had been supported by ChildForum, and present it as their own.
- The Ministry of Education has the ability to implement pay parity now. It could use the mechanism of salary attestation to ensure teachers are paid at pay parity rates and it can do this as soon as the next funding round.
- There are ECE service providers who agree to be accountable for matching wages to pay parity rates to receive funding at the same level as kindergartens.
- The effects of an absence of pay parity for many ECE teachers is harmful to the quality of ECE for children and outcomes.
- Government has a dominant influence on what teachers are paid in all ECE services, including privately-owned services.
- The question to ask is not how much it will cost to fund pay parity, but when will the use of teachers as cheap labour to make cost savings in ECE, end?
- The ECE teacher remuneration 2020 survey results show significant pay disparities. The report can be found at https://www.childforum.com/reports/1868-ece-workforce.html
- Continuing to provide funding for ECE teachers to have pay parity only if they are employed by a Kindergarten Association is an illogical and unjust approach. The Kindergarten Regulations 1959 upon which a kindergarten was defined as distinct from other early childhood centres do not exist anymore, all kindergartens now hold all-day licences just as other early childhood centres and teachers are required to hold identical qualifications and meet identical professional requirements. No kindergarten is publicly-owned – all kindergartens operate under the private ownership of community-based associations just as many other early childhood centres do.