A fight for better pay

Greerton Village School teacher assistants (from left) Pam Stamp, Sandra Williams and Gloria Balzer.

Local teacher aides will be voting on a new collective employment agreement over the next few weeks that will kick-start pay equity talks in the school support sector.

The New Zealand Educational Institute has been in negotiations with the Ministry of Education over school support staff pay for six months. Last month more than 500 school principals from throughout New Zealand, including many from the Western Bay of Plenty, signed an open letter to the government asking for better pay for teacher aides.

A draft collective agreement was signed with the MoE on June 16 to start pay equity talks for teacher aides, which will be voted on by NZEI members over the next few weeks.

The news has been welcomed by Greerton Village School teacher assistants Gloria Balzer and Pam Stamp. Having been in the job for 30 years and 18 years respectively, they love their work but would also like to be fairly paid.

Greerton Village School employs 20 teacher assistants to work alongside 23 special needs students. It pays them an above-average wage and does so by tapping into its operations grant – last year to the tune of $170,000.

Support staff team leader Sandra Williams says teacher assistants are “the backbone of the school.”

“The school wouldn't be able to operate without us yet we are competing with power, water and school maintenance and we shouldn't be.”

Gloria and Pam's hours are ‘tagged' to the students they work with, so if those students move to another school their funding goes with them.

The women make teaching resources and attend after-hours school events in their own time to support the students they work with.

Their work has also changed considerably over the years and they now work alongside a myriad of health professionals as well as teachers.

“We have yearly appraisals and are expected to help meet the learning objectives of the students we work with,” says Sandra.

One of the children Pam works with is in a wheelchair and has to be fed and toileted.

“I have to make sure she is included in the class as much as I can. That's really important.”

The women work for the love of the job. “The pay is terrible but the rewards are great,” says Gloria.

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