Early childhood teachers throughout Northland took to the streets on Saturday, demanding increased funding so a pay parity agreement can be fulfilled.
Earlier this year the government announced a pay parity package aiming to bring wages at early childhood centres into line with significantly higher pay rates at kindergartens.
Teachers taking part in the protests, such as Erin Halliwell of Ōhaeawai Community Preschool, said it was only fair that teachers in early childhood education (ECE) centres and kindergartens were paid the same because they completed the same training, held the same practising certificates and complied with the same regulations.
While the Government agreed, the catch was the extra funding allocated wasn't enough to increase pay rates to kindergarten levels.
ECE centres that opted in to the agreement could end up running at a loss, she said.
Their only options would be to increase fees or reduce the ratio of teachers to children. The Government's minimum staffing ratios were one teacher to 10 children aged over 2, and one to five for under-2s.
However, Halliwell said the ratios for quality education were one to seven and one to three, respectively.
The protest was calling for pay parity and quality ratios for the benefit of children, she said.
Teachers based in the Mid North made a last-minute decision to stage their own Loud 4 ECE protest in Kerikeri given the Covid-19 outbreak.
Halliwell said that was safer than travelling to the Whangārei protest and back. There were also concerns the Whangārei event could end up exceeding the outdoor gathering limit.
Staff from four ECE centres in Ōhaeawai and Kerikeri took part. Teachers from Kerikeri Kindergarten joined in to show their support.
Pay parity across the ECE sector was part of Labour's election manifesto.
In May this year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced a funding boost of $170 million over four years to help deliver pay parity.
Another set of higher funding rates would be available from January 1 for ECE centres that agreed to pay staff in line with the first six pay steps of the kindergarten teachers' collective agreement.
The Government would continue to work with the sector to consider what further changes were needed to the ECE funding model to sustainably implement pay parity, Hipkins said.
Saturday was a day of demonstrations in Kerikeri, with ECE teachers immediately followed by a protest against vaccine mandates at various points in Kerikeri Rd.