Employers and union pause early childhood teacher negotiations due to underfunding

26 November 2019

Early childhood education (ECE) employers and the union representing ECE teachers have hit pause on their collective agreement negotiations, with both parties agreeing current government funding makes it impossible to reach a fair deal for teachers.

They have agreed to jointly meet with the Minister of Education to urge an immediate pay jolt and a longer term pay plan to fix the considerable pay gap between ECE teachers and other teachers in schools and kindergartens. 

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) and NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiate the Early Childhood Education Collective Employment Agreement (ECECA) for about 200 independent centres and services, and this agreement sets the baseline for early childhood teacher pay across the sector, excluding kindergartens. 

However, government per-child funding has been virtually frozen for a decade, putting immense financial pressure on services and making it nearly impossible to pay staff fairly without passing on extra costs to parents. 

NZEI Te Riu Roa and Te Rito Maioha are instead developing a fair pay plan to take to the Government to fix the pay gap in early childhood education and ensure that qualified ECE teachers are paid the same as teachers in kindergartens and schools. They have developed a set of principles (below) to guide the development of this plan. 

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Chief Executive, Kathy Wolfe says, “teachers are saying they want better pay and working conditions, and this message is also coming through strongly from our employer members who want to fairly recognise their teachers. Both NZEI Te Riu Roa and we know this can only be achieved if the Government provides much improved funding.” 

NZEI Te Riu Roa Early Childhood Representative Virginia Oakly says it is only right that teachers with the same qualifications, skills and responsibilities are paid the same regardless of the age of their students. 

“According to NZEI figures, on average, early childhood teachers are paid 23% less than other teachers with exactly the same qualifications and experience. Next year that will blow out to 49% for some. That’s just not okay.” 

“It’s little wonder that we have a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in our early childhood centres. Education starts at birth, not at 5 or 6, and New Zealand needs to give greater priority to our youngest children now in order to see benefits in the years to come,” said Ms Oakly. 

Ms Wolfe says Government subsidies need to increase for the entire sector, otherwise ECE centres will struggle to maintain high quality education for our youngest and most precious citizens.  

NZEI Te Riu Roa is currently running a campaign, ECE Voice, aimed at the Government’s insufficient funding of the early childhood sector and is calling on the public and all early childhood teachers to sign on and show their support for fair pay. 

ECECA Fair Pay Plan Principles 


The purpose of the Fair Pay Plan is redressing the consequences of a decade of underfunding in early childhood education which has led to a crisis in the sector.  

NZEI Te Riu Roa and Te Rito Maioha ECNZ have agreed to jointly develop a plan that ensures the ECE profession is valued.  Research shows that children have huge amounts to gain from high-quality ECE which has powerful life-long positive impacts on their health, wellbeing and later education. 


The parties have agreed to fix the pay gap for ALL employees covered by the Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement (ECECA).  The principles underpinning this are: 

1.      Pay parity with the education sector (primary, post-primary and kindergarten) for ALL certificated teachers. 

2.      Fair pay rates for ALL other roles. 

3.     A commitment to addressing gender under-valuation through the pay equity process. 

4.      Ensure the ECECA continues to set the benchmark for the attestation salary rates for teachers employed in the Early Childhood Sector. 

5.      No reduction in pay for any employee. 

6.      Ensuring the rates of pay are maintained and are kept aligned across the education sector. 

7.      Recognition of ECECA members’ contribution to achieving fair pay. 

8.      Settlement of the ECECA is contingent upon the government’s agreement to fund the fair pay plan.  

9.      Jointly approach the government with the fair pay plan to remedy the pay gap. 

For more information: