A $100K difference in pay over ten years - union says ECE pay parity needs to be accelerated

1 July 2021

Early childhood education union NZEI Te Riu Roa says today's pay increase for ECE teachers on the minimum rates is not enough to stem a crisis in the sector.

Teacher vacancies ballooned from 500 to over 600 in just a week last month, more than all the vacancies in primary and secondary schooling combined. 

The pay differential between ECE and other teachers is a key contributor to the shortage. NZEI Te Riu Roa estimates that within ten years, an ECE teacher starting their career today will on average have been paid more than $100,000 less than their colleagues in kindergarten unless the Government accelerates pay parity.

The Government has asked employers to use today's funding increase to increase their minimum pay rate for qualified teachers to match that in kindergartens and primary schools. If their teachers are all already above the minimum rate, the Minister of Education has an "unequivocal expectation" that employers still use the funding for pay and lift other teachers' rates.

"While it's great that the Government has lifted the funding to maintain parity with schools and kindergartens at that entry level, ECE rates simply don't keep up across our teachers' careers - and that needs to change" says ECE Representative on the NZEI Te Riu Roa National Executive, Virginia Oakly.

"Though they now start at the same pay rate, primary and kindergarten rates quickly leave those working elsewhere in ECE behind. On current rates, we estimate that within ten years, ECE teachers starting now could be paid on average over $100,000 less than their colleagues in kindergarten with the same responsibilities, qualifications and experience.

"This shows that while parity at the minimum rate is an important step towards the pay parity the Minister has promised, much more needs to be done. There's a huge inequity there. Unless the Government accelerates the funding of pay parity for all teachers, we risk losing our most experienced teachers at an even faster rate than now.

"Our members are worried about the impact the teacher shortage is having on the children they teach. Teachers are overtired and overstretched, and it's proving nearly impossible to recruit new people into teams, and even to find teachers who can relieve."

A survey of people working in ECE, conducted earlier this year, showed that almost 90% felt pay parity with their peers in kindergartens and schools would help to solve the teacher shortage and other issues facing the sector.

"The sector needs to work together to achieve pay parity that's entrenched in union collective agreements and, ultimately, a sectorwide fair pay agreement that covers all early childhood educators."

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