UCOL lecturers are earning less than others in the education sector, according to the Tertiary Education Union.
It has compared the salaries of polytechnic teachers throughout the country, as well as across the education sector, lining up what qualified early-childhood, primary and secondary-school teachers earn compared to their tertiary-level counterparts.
The findings, backed by Ministry of Education figures, show UCOL lecturers and academics are at the back of the class, receiving up to $8000 less than fellow tutors.
UCOL spokeswoman Christine Beech said the polytechnic's salaries were in line with others in the sector. "UCOL believes staff are paid fairly . . . the lowest paid lecturer at UCOL is on $47,840."
The union disputes this figure, saying a beginning tertiary-qualified lecturer starts on at least $7000 less.
"UCOL staff earn substantially less than their peers doing similar jobs," TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack said.
According to the union, Whitireia lecturers' starting salary is $45,890, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology lecturers start at $47,324 and Southern Institute of Technology lecturers at $47,702.
Ms Cormack said UCOL was not only out of step with other polytechnics but also with the wider education sector. According to ministry guidelines, a teacher with a bachelor of teaching earns about $46,000, with the base salary scale for trained kindergarten, primary or secondary-school teachers ranging from $35,021 to $71,900.
"Teaching young adults the job skills they need to get jobs and contribute to our local communities should not be worth less than other kinds of teaching," Ms Cormack said.
UCOL certificate in science and health lecturer Kathleen Bailey spent 26 years as a secondary school teacher before moving into tertiary level teaching. She took an $8000 pay cut from her previous position as a science teacher at Palmerston North Girls' High School, which she left in 2006, to running bridge courses for second-chance learners at UCOL.
"I enjoy working with motivated adults and I find the opportunity to work here and to teach, rather than managing student behaviour like what you do at a secondary school, [better] and I love that," she said. "But I'm at a loss to understand why I shouldn't be paid a fair rate for my expertise."
There were pros and cons for working in either sector - the workload was about the same, class sizes were similar but leave opportunities were limited at UCOL, with five weeks plus statutory holidays and an estimated 12 weeks at schools.
Also, unlike secondary school teaching, polytechnic staff had to bargain for a pay increase and there was a lack of transparency around salary scales.
"I'm not prepared to say that this year I'm going to work for less than last year because the cost of living has gone up and my salary hasn't, that for me is the real sticking point."
Industrial action, which has been spurred by a stalemate between UCOL and the TEU over the lack of an across the board pay rise this year, continues at the polytech.
UCOL's 220 union members want a 2.5 per cent pay rise.
The polytechnic tabled an offer this month which included two additional days paid leave for 2014, plus salary increases of up to 2 per cent depending on whether additional government funding was given. It was declined.
TEU branch president Tina Smith said members were meeting next week to discuss their campaign and the negotiations.
- Manawatu Standard
Where do you buy most of your books nowadays?Related story: Online sales final page for independent bookshop