Kindergarten teachers are set to be paid on par with their primary and secondary counterparts.
Members of the union New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a collective agreement. It includes a significant salary increase, a one-off payment of $1500 to union members (pro-rated for part-time employees) and better lunch breaks.
The Ministry of Education said it welcomes the vote, which took place online on Thursday night after four days of negotiations between the Ministry of Education, NZEI and kindergarten employers.
"We're really pleased that kindergarten teachers have achieved a pay increase and have retained pay parity with primary and secondary teachers," said NZEI lead negotiator Virginia Oakly.
"We do still need to address pay rates and work conditions across the wider early childhood sector and we'll continue working toward that, as well as looking at opportunities to address workload and wellbeing in other forums."
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The changes will be backdated to July 12, and the agreement covers the next three years. The top kindergarten teachers will now be paid up to $90,000.
According to the sector's last collective agreement, newly qualified teachers starting out in early childhood education are paid $45,491 - by 2021, that'll be $51,358.
Kindergarten teachers only make up 12.5 of early childhood education staff. Others will have to wait, with pay equity claims ongoing.
In the past kindy teachers enjoyed pay parity with their primary school colleagues, but with the latter recently achieving parity with secondary teachers, those working in kindergartens were left behind.
"The early years are the most important," Oakly said in July. "The most growth and development for children is happening at that time. It's really critical. There's a lot of important milestones... and we play a vital role in that."