Union and employers call on government to increase ECE funding in 2021 Budget as union meetings get underway

30 March 2021

ECE employers have united with the country's largest education union to call on the government to address a teacher shortage and poor pay in Budget 2021.

In their letter to Minister Hipkins yesterday afternoon, NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter, and Chief Executive of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Kathy Wolfe say the problems are the result of underfunding, and should be addressed by a "significant injection of pay parity funding" in Budget 2021.

Teacher shortages and low pay will also be discussed by hundreds of ECE teachers across the country as they come together in paid union meetings over the next two weeks. These members of NZEI Te Riu Roa, covered by the ECE Collective Agreement, will be considering options to progress pay parity through political action - as well as through negotiations of their collective agreement, which signals minimum pay rates throughout the sector.

Goulter and Wolfe (whose organisation Te Rito Maioha represents employers in the ECE Collective Agreement) say significant funding "would mean we can show society values our teachers by paying them the same as their school and kindergarten colleagues. It would help keep fees affordable for parents and allow investment in teachers’ well-being and professional development."

They also want to see a plan to fully implement the Minister's 2020 election promise of delivering pay parity with kindergarten and primary school teachers. 

"A chronic shortage of trained teachers and a lack of investment in our services means our children are being short-changed. We know that when early childhood is underfunded, children, parents and teachers all pay the price."

"A key driver of the crisis continues to be the pay gap of up to 31% between ECE teachers and their school and kindergarten colleagues. As a result, centres face challenges retaining teachers, filling vacancies and finding relievers."

An NZEI Te Riu Roa survey of early childhood educators released just last week showed that more than 86% feel teacher shortages are having impacts on the children they teach, and more than 80% feel personally affected by the situation themselves - citing high stress, burnout, and even an inability to take entitled breaks during work hours.

In addition, more than 75% of those surveyed said they feel it is getting harder to maintain minimum child-to-teacher ratios, raising concerns that teachers are unable to give the children in their centres the time and attention they deserve.

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