Hundreds of women working in education are set to get a pay rise of up to 30 per cent in a historic settlement for pay equity.
The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and the Ministry of Education today signed Terms of Settlement to address a pay equity claim for 329 support workers who work with very young children in early childhood and primary schools.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said nearly all education support workers are women, and they do vital work helping young children with severe learning and behavioural challenges to learn.
"I am delighted to say they will finally be paid fairly for the crucial work they do.
"This is about fairness. All the parties of Government have committed to pay equity for all women in New Zealand, and to making it fairer and easier for groups of women to bring pay equity claims."
This case was originally brought under the pay equity unit in the last Labour government and of course there was significant disruption to that, Ardern said.
"It wasn't a good reason, we should have been able to resolve it when it first began."
When asked by reporters today Ardern agreed it would trigger more claims.
"There are a number of claims that we as a Government are committed to working through."
Support workers are currently paid between $16.77 and $19.87 an hour. The settlement would see the minimum hourly rate move to $21.67 with a new top step of $24.73 for those who have done four to nine years' service.
Support workers with 10 or more years' service on 1 July 2018, will move to a new rate of $25.70 an hour.
Ardern was joined in her office today by women who had campaigned for the change.
Communications support worker Mary Jones said she loved her work because she made a difference in children's lives.
"I help a child blossom from being shy and unconfident to one who is socially up with their peers and able to express themselves.
"A couple of years ago while working with a child in the staff room of a school, a young man approached me and introduced himself.
"I had worked with him more than 10 years earlier and he thanked me for my input into his education. That was a really special moment."
The pay equity journey had been long one up to the signing date which had made her feel truly valued, she said.
Hutt Valley support worker Jacoline Brink said she had one message for all the women in education.
"Don't lose hope. There is always hope."
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said that this has been a long time coming for the women who had taken the Education Support Worker's claim.
"The process for the women started under the previous Labour Government, before National scrapped the pay equity unit in 2008," Hipkins said.
"This Government is committed to pay equity and lifting wages, particularly for our lowest-paid workers.
"Ultimately, it's about making sure that women get a fair deal in the workplace," Chris Hipkins said.
The settlement is expected to be ratified in the next month after support workers vote on it in the coming weeks.