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Decision reserved on support staff dispute

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/04/2016

Thousands of school support staff who will have their pay cut to accommodate an extra pay period are disputing the decision by the Ministry of Education.

Around 6000 staff, including school office administrators and teacher aides, who chose to annualise their pay will receive 3.7 per cent less in each fortnightly pay period over the next year.

The issue arose from an accumulation of extra days since each calendar year does not break down evenly into even pay cycles.

New Zealand Educational Institute lawyer Peter Cranney argued to the Employment Relations Authority on Thursday that there cannot be 27 fortnightly pay cycles in each year as per their collective bargaining agreement.

Instead the annualisation start date can be brought forward so staff receive their full fortnightly pay.

But Crown Law counsel Sally McKechnie rebuked his maths, saying it's not possible to look at the current year in isolation as the accumulation of additional days requires a reset every 11 years.

Otherwise, the beginning of each annualisation period will continue to creep forward.

She put forth two solutions; one being the current 3.7 per cent pay reduction for the year or that staff who annualise their pay to miss out a final 27th annual payment entirely.

Staff are still receiving the same amount of annual income, Ms McKechnie argued, as an additional "bonus" payment would disadvantage staff who chose not to annualise their pay.

NZEI representative Alison Gray says some people will be losing up to $40 a week because of the Novopay decision.

"We are already the lowest paid people in the education sector," she said on Thursday.

"We've been hearing stories about families, who are already struggling, having to cut back further on basics such as groceries, food and shoes for children."

A decision on the dispute was reserved and will be handed down within two weeks.

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