Pay Parity inconsistent with older teachers’ right to freedom from discrimination – ECC to file legal action

19 March 2023

The Early Childhood Council is suing the government, on grounds that the early learning teacher Pay Parity initiatives breach the right to freedom from discrimination for older female teachers under the Human Rights and New Zealand Bill of Rights Acts. The funding gap between higher salary steps centres have to pay teachers, and Ministry of Education funding is also irrational and unreasonable.

“This is about holding the government to account. If this discrimination isn’t addressed, it’ll create more inequities in education, with more senior and experienced teachers getting pushed out of early learning as providers find Pay Parity financially unsustainable,” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.

At the heart of the case is Pay Parity making older, predominantly female, teachers with more experience and qualifications unaffordable, forcing providers to put up parent fees. If a centre is free or parents can’t afford to pay the increased fees, they’ll have little choice but to cut costs by reducing their teacher to child ratio, or close.

Pay Parity is the government’s initiative to close the pay gap between teachers in education and care centres and their colleagues in kindergartens, who have the same qualifications and experience, but are paid more.

The ECC’s Wages and Salary Survey Report (2022) shows that smaller centres are at highest risk, as they employ about half of all teachers with over nine years’ experience. This creates a funding gap, as they must pay teachers at the top of the pay scales, while being funded at the same rate as a centre with much less experienced teachers.

“We know that the Ministry understood this would be the outcome. It’s a substandard decision to proceed with this policy using wholly inadequate data and modelling,” said Simon Laube.

“This is a mismatch between new funding rules that try to progress Education & Care services towards pay parity with kindergartens, and a funding approach from the government that’s not fit for purpose. Centres are set up to fail and pay parity is not achieved.”

“There’s a complete lack of transparency – no-one understands if Pay Parity funding is actually intended to meet providers’ costs or not? And if not, how much did the government think parents would be willing to pay to make up the difference? Calculations like this by the government where parents are relied on to pay the remainder must be transparent, so parents understand all the facts. What about parents who can’t afford to pay more?”

“Thursday’s education industrial action showed strong discontent in the sector. Kindergarten teachers were striking for better pay and conditions, but the Education & Care services the ECC represents are a long way behind kindergartens. The gap looks set to widen again –Pay Parity isn’t working and needs to be fixed, urgently,” said Simon Laube.

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