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School support staff demand fair pay in union 'week of action'

Some parents, teachers, principals and MPs could be seeing more of their school support staff from today, with a “week of action” starting over a union’s demands for fair pay.

The action follows over three months of negotiations between the primary teachers' union NZEI and the Ministry of Education over support staff’s collective pay agreement, which the union said the Government was “stalling”.

The union said no offer was forthcoming and it wanted the Government to move faster to give schools and staff certainty before the end of the year.

At paid union meetings last month, support staff in primary and secondary schools voted to commit to a week of action to raise awareness of “poor pay and job insecurity” to their teaching colleagues and their wider school communities, the union said.

An NZEI spokesperson said thousands of staff — including teacher aides, admin staff, librarians, Māori language assistants and technicians — would take part at primary and secondary schools nationwide.

He said they would talk to people, engage with the media and hand out fliers.

Ally Kemplen, an Auckland teacher aide on the NZEI pay equity negotiation team, said in a statement the mood among support staff at recent paid union meetings was increasingly angry.

"We work with children who have some of the most complex learning needs. If we truly value the learning of those children, we need to value the people who work closest with them,” she said.

“We endure poor pay and insecure employment to do the job we love."

The union said there was also frustration over pay equity negotiations for teacher aides, which have been ongoing for the past three years.

Ms Kemplen said 90 per cent of teacher aides earned less than the living wage of $21.15, while 60 per cent are on fixed-term contracts.

“Many of us have to juggle two or more jobs to make ends meet. We are officially over it,” she said.

NZEI represents 18,000 teacher aides.

Classroom. (File photo) Source: istock.com