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Schools Will Struggle To Fund Future Pay Rises For School Staff

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

15 OCTOBER 2008 - The Government's failure to give schools enough money to operate means NZSTA cannot support significant pay rises for non-teaching staff, says the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

President Lorraine Kerr says the Government's lack of action over the woeful inadequacy of schools' operations funding is now coming to a crunch point.

"We know the primary teachers union, the NZEI, will be lodging a pay claim for support staff in schools later this year. But schools, already struggling with ongoing underfunding cannot afford to meet this claim without significant cuts elsewhere."

The union is expected to not only seek a flow on of the minimum $2 hr based on the caretakers/cleaners settlement, but will also look for subsequent adjustments to margins to retain "relativities" within scales, as well as a restructuring of support staff scales themselves.

Lorraine Kerr says that while the Prime Minister, at the NZEI conference, confirmed that the Government is prepared to provide the additional funding required for a "pay jolt" to raise pay rates for low paid support staff, this commitment to fund will only affect a very small number of support staff.

NZSTA has calculated that governments commitment will only affect some 7,000 support staff (approx 2,650 FTEs), potentially leaving the costs of any pay rise for the remaining 20,000 support staff to fall on boards of trustees.

Any translation to new restructured support staff scales, and bigger incremental steps would also add significant extra costs to boards, she says.

"The way matters stand at present NZSTA cannot be supportive of any such claim for support staff given the significant potential costs to boards, particularly at a time when board's operations grants are already under considerable stress."

NZSTA and other sector groups have been seeking a significant increase in operations grant funding for a number of years now. While the 2007 review of schools operational funding clearly identified the cost pressures boards are facing, there has been no real commitment on the part of government to actually address the issues of underfunding.

"NZSTA cannot agree to large wage and restructuring costs being dumped on boards when we know that their capacity to continually absorb such significant costs within an already inadequate operations grant is very limited, and in some cases, simply cannot be done," Lorraine Kerr says.

The need for government to meet current cost pressures through adequate funding is critical when it is considered that since 1989 boards of trustees have had to absorb the costs of:

A huge increase in the number of support staff in schools, from approximately 10,000 in 1989 to approximately 26-27,000 today The failure of cost/price adjustments, commonly made in each budget, to provide for the real cost effects of pay settlements The effect of incremental progression of between 3-4% each year, in addition to any negotiated percentage increase.

These are on top of a myriad of other costs, such as ICT costs, copyright, and compliance costs which have never been funded by government, Lorraine Kerr says.

NZSTA members find it very difficult to understand why government continues to ignore the plight of boards in their attempt to run their schools on an increasingly inadequate operations grant, especially when the Government's expectations of boards is to personalise learning and increase student achievement, she says.

"It makes no sense to place boards in this 'no win' situation by claiming there is no additional funding available when there seems to be no problem in finding $1 billion to $1.5 billion to settle teachers salary and staffing claims.

"By comparison, we know that an injection of as little as $100 million over and above inflation would make a huge difference to schools."

It has been recently reported in the 2007 Schools Sector report that boards raised $565 million in locally raised funds in 2007, in addition to the $1.2 billion in operational grant funding provided directly to boards of trustees.

Lorraine Kerr says boards of trustees raised a record amount in locally raised funds in 2007, but this cannot be counted on to continue given the current economic climate.

A reduction in locally raised funds in the future is a distinct possibility, as the overall financial situation tightens. And, any such contraction of locally raised funds will simply exacerbate an already tenuous situation, she says.

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