Andrew Dickens: Teachers being paid less than minimum wage is shameful

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 12:03p.m.
She’s teaching in New Lynn and getting paid $622 a week, or $15.56 an hour. That's $2.14 below the minimum wage. Photo / 123RF.

What is the point of having a minimum wage if a Government department can simply ignore it?

Apparently, about 60 teachers are being paid below the minimum wage and the union has already referred three cases, relating to overseas teachers recruited to fill the teacher shortage, to the Labour Department’s Migrant Exploitation Inspectorate.

This is astounding. Firstly these are teachers. Secondly, these are teachers who have taken a big personal risk and costs to travel from their home country to help us out.

Apparently, the problem is that the Ministry of Education is still assessing the teacher’s qualifications and experience. Once they get through all that the teachers will be back paid and they hope to get it done by May. May!  The year started in February!

The overseas teachers caught up in this are understandably gobsmacked. A Singaporean teacher, who came here with her lawyer husband, last year did a post-grad teaching diploma at Victoria University but even that’s not enough to convince the bureaucratic teachers. She’s teaching in New Lynn and getting paid $622 a week, or $15.56 an hour. That's $2.14 below the minimum wage. And the whole lot is before tax!

She is quoted as saying, "I never imagined a profession that moulds the future generation of a nation to receive such ill treatment from so many stakeholders here".

An American is on the same deal. She gets under $500 a week after tax and is paying $250 a week in rent. She has used up all her savings and her family is wiring her money from the States.

We put out a worldwide call for teachers to help with our teaching crisis. These teachers took the punt and what happened? We reward them with breadline conditions. Whoever the functionary was who decided this was an appropriate response to the issues that came over their desk is a fool. A rule-based robot with no common sense or humanity at all.

This is the worst advertisement for New Zealand as a place to bring skills as you could hope for.

There is something deeply wrong in the teaching profession. It is hierarchical, bureaucratic, ideological and it’s own worst enemy. For a while, I’ve been of the opinion that the teacher’s staffing woes have been exaggerated as I hear of many teachers who struggle to find jobs despite the dire warnings of crisis. Teachers and their administrators are often their own worst enemy.

But there’s something even deeper than this concern. As I started this story I asked the question, “what is the point of having a minimum wage if a Government department can simply ignore it?”

Surely there should never be a Government employee paid under the minimum wage. Certainly not teachers. Some functionary is muttering about changes to the minimum wage on April 1. This is waffle. The minimum wage hasn’t been as low as $15.56 for at least four years.

If a Government department can choose to pay a skilled worker $15.56 an hour, then why shouldn’t the private sector just do what they please as well?

The whole thing is just not on and something that the Ministry of Education should be ashamed of.

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