Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)
Anyone who cares about education should get behind the Fair Pay Agreements legislation, due for its second reading in Parliament today, says Chris Abercrombie, Junior Vice President of PPTA Te Wehengarua.
“I am a history teacher at James Hargest College in Invercargill, where I am raising my family. On a personal level, I have seen the impact of low wages in my community. I see it in the quiet desperation on people’s faces at the supermarket, and I hear the stress in their conversations as people make difficult decisions about what they can afford.
“At a school level, we see the same stress on students’ faces as they try to juggle their school work and their paid employment. These aren’t casual teenage jobs for extra pocket money and some work experience – they are jobs that contribute to the family income.
“As teachers we have students who tell us they can’t complete NCEA assessments because they have to work, and who leave school before Year 13 to get full time jobs to support their family. Not only does this cut them off from future opportunities, they don’t have time to be children.
“School camps are a staple of the New Zealand school experience, but they are becoming increasingly fraught. Even if a school can afford to cover all the costs of taking a class away on camp, some students can’t afford the right clothing or equipment they need to take part. This also excludes them from joining sports and cultural teams that require transport or uniforms.
“This situation is getting worse, not better. Fair Pay Agreements are needed if our rangatahi are to have the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive, at school and in life.
“Senior National Party MPs have voiced concerns recently about the level of absenteeism in schools at the moment. The impacts of low wages in families homes directly contributes to this. It also affects students’ ability to take part in the full range of school activities that are available. Talented students who might otherwise consider taking scholarship exams in Year 13 cannot come to the tutorials, or commit to the extra study time, because they have to work. If National MPs are genuinely concerned about school attendance, they need to support this legislation.”
The Fair Pay Agreements Bill seeks to set a minimum standard for pay and conditions across whole employment sectors, allowing workers in different workplaces and with different employers to bargain collectively. This will raise wages and improve conditions for people in the lowest paid industries.