NZNO's Blog

Nurses’ and teachers’ settlements: a brief comparison

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1810-lesleyLesley Harry, DHB Industrial Adviser, NZNO

As this is being written, voting has just started for primary school teachers who are members of NZEI on their proposed settlement of June 2019. Inevitably, comparisons are being made by some between the outcomes achieved by teachers this year and by nurses last year with the NZNO-DHB MECA settlement.

This brief article will make some general comments on how the offers to teachers and to nurses compare and is not an in-depth analysis.

General comments

It is important to note that this comparison only applies to the proposed settlement for primary school teachers (NZEI). At the time of writing the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) is yet to vote on the proposed settlement.

We do not find it helpful to take a “which profession deserves more” approach. Teaching and nursing are both professions that are: essential to the well-being of Aotearoa New Zealand, female-dominated and significantly undervalued historically.

Similar processes and results

The process and results for nurses and teachers have in fact been quite similar. In each case there was an extended bargaining process with multiple offers rejected until a significantly better employer offer resulted after strike action.

In each case a series of pay increases was won, an accord was achieved promising further changes to the resourcing of the profession, new steps were introduced and a pro rata lump sum payment was offered (nurses $2000; teachers $1500).

NZNO was very supportive of the teachers in their bargaining and industrial action. Our support, including turning up at their demonstrations, was well-received and appreciated.

Similar wages

The teachers’ proposed pay increases are comparable to the 2018 NZNO/DHB MECA pay rises. Direct comparisons between the professions can be quite difficult and need a lot of explanation or clarification but we can provide some basics.

With the teachers’ proposed settlement, Q3 teachers (teachers with a three-year degree) on $71,891 will move to $75,200 in 1 July 2019. Under the NZNO DHB MECA agreement the salary for registered nurses and midwives on step 6 will increase to a very similar $75,132 on 5 August 2019. The new Step 7 of $77,386 for registered nurses and midwives comes into effect on 4 May 2020.

Q3 Teachers at year 9 (nine years’ experience) will transition to $83,000 on 1 July 2020, but note that this is just before the DHB/NZNO MECA expiry and subsequent re-negotiation, which are likely to result in salary increases.

So it is not until 1 July 2020 that a Q3 teacher at the top of the scale will be paid more than a registered nurse. If we look at the lower end of the scale, the comparison is much better for nurses. For example, a new grad teacher starts on $48,401 (on 1 July 2019). An RN is on $52,460 as of 1 May 2019. A Q3 teacher with five years’ service will be on $62,000 (from 1 July 2019). An RN with five years’ service has been on $70,820 since 6 May 2019.

The length of the term is important to the comparison

It is important to note that the NZEI collective agreement (CA) expired in May 2018. The term of the new proposed CA is 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2022. However, the actual period from the expiry of the previous CA and expiry of the proposed CA is more than four years.

The average pay increases for teachers stated as overall being 18.5%  is comparable to the DHB/NZNO MECA increases of around 15% when the term and expiry of the teachers’ settlement is taken into account.

The NZNO/DHB MECA expires on 31 July 2020 – two years prior to the expiry of the teachers’ proposed CA. This means NZNO is well positioned to close or improve on any remaining gaps with teachers’ wages at the 2020 NZNO-DHB negotiations.

Let’s not forget pay equity

A significant difference between the settlements is pay equity, which was raised as a claim by NZNO as part of the MECA negotiations. The pay equity process is underway and making progress, with the agreed outcome recognised as effective from 31 December 2019.

We cannot yet say for sure what the results of this process will be, but it is likely to mean even further significant wage increases for nurses.

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