On the Picket Line

School workers in New Zealand rally for equal pay for women

By Felicity Coggan
May 21, 2018

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — More than 200 early childhood teachers, school support workers, teacher aides, school administrators and their families and supporters joined a “Fair’s Fair” rally here May 5 for equal pay for women. The action, part of protests nationwide, demanded the Labour Party-led government implement its pre-election promise to close the gap in pay between male and female workers. Despite laws on equal pay dating back to 1972, women are still paid 9.4 percent less than men, with no real change in that gap for over a decade.

“Join the union. Pay the Sisters the Same as the Misters,” read one participant’s T-shirt.

The action was organized by NZEI Te Riu Roa — the New Zealand Educational Institute — a union that represents some 50,000 teachers, support staff and principals.

“I represent the large army of administrative workers, mostly women, who are often invisible,” the union’s Julie-Anne Roberts told the rally. “It’s time that we were recognized and paid for the skills we bring.” Members of the Post Primary Teachers’ Association and Maritime Union of New Zealand joined the protest.

Many workers also turned out to protest low pay rates. One school support worker said that even those in the top pay grade earn less than 20 New Zealand dollars an hour ($14).

Others said they had to cope with overcrowded classrooms and heavy workloads. “As a teacher I’m not happy dealing with the problems of a society that’s not working,” Cheryl, an early childhood teacher, told the Militant.

A number of participants had read about the strikes and rallies by school workers in the United States on the internet, and were eager to get the Militant to learn more about them. Three people signed up for subscriptions.