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About 70 teachers from early childhood education (ECE) centres around Dunedin gathered at Age Concern Hall for an early morning meeting last Friday, wearing black and yellow T-shirts with the slogan "A teacher is a teacher is a teacher", and carrying signs saying "Same degree, different pay", "Fair’s fair" and "Every age is important".
They then gathered in the Octagon before marching to the Ministry of Education offices in Moray Pl.
NZEI Te Riu Roa national executive member Byron Sanders, of Dunedin, said the teachers were NZEI union members and were covered by the Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement of Aotearoa New Zealand (ECECA) and the Barnardos Collective Employment Agreement 2019.
They met to discuss the next steps in their negotiations and to campaign for parity with teachers in kindergartens and primary schools.
Teachers covered by the ECECA were offered a new minimum rate of $49,862 and a 1.5% increase to other printed rates. Barnardos teachers were offered no increase to printed rates aside from a new minimum rate of $49,862.
Mr Sanders said it meant teachers would be paid an average of 24% less than kindergarten and primary school teachers with the same qualifications.
"There are large inequities in the way that early learning providers are able to pay their qualified teachers," he said.
"What we are wanting to do as NZEI Te Riu Roa is make that shift where actually a teacher is a teacher is a teacher — if you’re a qualified teacher, then you should be paid as such."
He said early learning providers were often bulk-funded, so the funding set aside for paying their staff was not necessarily ring-fenced, like it was in primary schools or kindergartens.
"All of their funding to pay for things like water and electricity is all put in the same pot, and they need to pull from that to pay their qualified teachers."
He said NZEI members were calling on the Government to help close the pay gap by providing more funding for ECEs.
"All [ECE] providers need to be funded to the level where they are able to pay their staff what they deserve," Mr Sanders said.
"I think what is really heartening is employers are of the same mind-set.
"They want to be able to attract and retain qualified staff in their centres, but if they are not resourced at a level that enables them to do that, then it’s going to be harder to keep teachers from going to sectors that are able to pay them what they are worth."
NZEI is urging the public to get behind early childhood teachers by signing up at ECEVoice.org.nz.