Out in the field: Salary increments – don’t miss out!
A beginning teacher recently contacted her field officer, concerned that her salary increment on the base scale appeared to be overdue*.
One step up the pay scale for every 1000 hours
Teachers joining the profession will start with a pay rate somewhere on the base salary scale depending on their qualification and credits for things like work experience. While these pay rates certainly need improving, teachers will progress up the pay scale until reaching the maximum pay rate for their qualification type. This progression (salary step increments) happens under both the secondary (STCA 4.2.3) and area school (ASTCA 3.7) collective agreements.
Permanent full-time and part-time teachers should move up one step after each full year (the date you are due to move is called your increment date). Non-permanent part-time teachers are different. They move one step up the scale after every 1000 hours of timetabled employment. As they are employed for fewer than 1000 hours a year these teachers will take more than one year to move each step up the scale and, as a precaution, should keep their own record of how many hours they are accumulating.
The employer must attest the teacher has met professional standards
In all cases the employer must attest the teacher has met the appropriate professional standards (which are listed in Supplement 1 of the STCA, and Schedule 1 of the ASTCA). That principal must send the attestation form to Novopay/EPL to confirm the increment is due. Sometimes the employer sends the notification too late for the increase to be paid out on time. While annoying for the teacher, this is easily remedied - the notification is sent and the salary increase is backdated to when it was actually due.
The real problem arises when the employer won’t attest the teacher’s performance is satisfactory, and tries to withhold the increment. Any PPTA member who finds themselves in this situation should immediately contact their field officer.
A good-faith process must be followed
Salary increments can only be withheld where the employer has properly determined that the teacher’s performance is not satisfactory. This must follow a good-faith process, and be consistent with the collective agreement provisions around teacher performance. Under both the STCA and ASTCA these include that you get reasonable opportunities for appropriate and effective professional development and that if the employer has any concerns about a teacher’s performance then that teacher must be told. An employer is not allowed to withhold a salary increment without reasonable prior warning.
Witholding increments is rare
Withholding of increments is rare, mainly due to the very high quality of New Zealand secondary teachers. When it does occur the identified problems are usually solved within one or two school terms. The employer must put in place a specific programme of support and development to assist the teacher in meeting the required standards. Once the standards are met, the teacher receives the salary increment from that date, and this will then become their new increment date for future moves up the salary scale.
*In fact, the increment was not overdue, but came through later that month.