Whangārei teacher aides are calling on the Government to put forward a pay offer before Christmas as they feel undervalued and left in limbo by the lack of progress.
Support staff who are part of education union NZEI have been attending union meetings around the region last week, and will continue this week, to discuss progress on pay equity claims, and next steps following the Ministry of Education's failure to present a collective agreement offer.
Whangārei teacher aides Liz Moon and Karen Anderson, who attended the meeting at Hora Hora Primary School last Thursday, said they want the Government to put an offer on the table before Christmas.
"We feel undervalued. We're not asking for a lot and we haven't asked for anything for such a long time. Are they hoping we're just going to shut up and go away?" Anderson said.
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Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Ministry of Education deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, said the support staff collective agreements - which expired in July - covered a wide range of roles from teacher aides and school secretaries to property managers.
"There are around 33,000 support staff employed by boards. We will continue to work with NZEI to understand the claims across this diverse workforce in order to make an offer," she said.
Unlike teachers, teacher aides only get paid the hours they work which means throughout the holidays they get nothing unless their pay is annualised in which case they get a smaller amount but throughout the year - including holidays.
Moon, who works at Onerahi School, and Anderson, who works at Parua Bay School and Whangārei Heads School, said they both earn less than the living wage.
Moon has been in her job for 20 years and said while the role had changed over the years with more children requiring specialised help - the pay had not changed with it.
"It's not good but having done it for 20 years it's a job you love doing so you keep doing it."
But pay is not the only issue teacher aides are facing. They say there is also a lack of job security.
"Fixed term contracts can be 12 monthly or term to term. We're always told there is a possibility of hours but you don't know if you're going to have the same hours, less hours, or maybe no hours. It's hard to be settled," Anderson said.
Currently teacher aides are wages are paid out of school's operations funding - which is money for running the day to day operations of schools - but Moon hoped the extra money teachers are asking for will come from central funding instead.
"Otherwise we're being compared to toilet paper because that's where toilet paper comes from - the bulk funding."