Monday, 30 November 2009

"0% won't pay the rent" - School Support Staff takes to Queen St

After the glorious wonderfulness of the Lift the Wage Freeze rally on Friday, I had the good fortune to be able to make the Fair Deal march and rally on Saturday too. Wriggly came along and largely had a good time, especially when I unleashed him on the playground at Myers Park at the end!
The issue? School Support Staff - 13000 union members nationwide working in non-teaching roles in our state schools - have been in the process of trying to bargain a new collective employment agreement since late 2008. The only pay offer the Government is making is a 0% pay increase. As the cost of living, and working, goes up this is basically a pay cut for some of the lowest paid workers in Aotearoa. Many start on $12.94 an hour, only 44c above the minimum wage, and almost all of them work part time and are only paid for working 40 weeks of the year (during school terms). Their pay issues are significant and long-standing. Labour had committed to a pay jolt for them prior to the last election, but that went out the window on November 8th 2008.Carol Beaumont was there and spoke at the rally, as were other Labour and Green MPs, plus a significant posse of other unions and organisations in support, such as the SFWU, the PPTA and the Working Women's Resource Centre.

And now, because I know many readers are going to be wondering about this, what's with all the pink? Pink is the colour of the Support Staff in Schools collective employment agreement (which we fondly call the SSCA at work*, we are all about the acronyms). It's been pink for a few years now, before that it was yellow. I have no idea what was behind the colour change, but it's not a gender thing, I think. There is an obvious gender dynamic at play in why these workers, mainly but not exclusively women, are so poorly paid. But the pink thing is genuinely coincidental to that.

Certainly it had a lot of impact. If you want to get a feel for that, and the general carnival atmosphere, as well as a good look at the actual people who put aside their Saturday to share their support, then I strongly recommend you check out this short video, which threads together the story of the march and rally through connecting stills taken over the whole time period - from turning up at QE2 Square with the placards, up Queen St, to the kai at Myers Park. It is one of the best pieces covering a march that I have ever seen.

* Yes I work for the union that organised this march. I generally try not to write about work stuff on here, which is the main reason I'm not going to be writing any blog posts about Early Childhood Education anytime soon (although often I am sorely tempted!). I don't work in the support staff area, and I took these pics primarily for the blog and for my own record. I've not been asked to write about this by my work, and Saturday was a day off for me. Hopefully that's enough of a disclaimer for you to understand that this is a post in my personal capacity.

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