A crowd of angry teachers and school support staff gathered outside MP Eric Roy's Invercargill Office this morning at 7 am, armed with placards and chalk. Despite being in his office and providing hot coffee and pikelets, Erics messages to us were hardly reassuring. After listening to countless stories of under pay, over pay and no pay and expressing sympathy, he had nothing specific to offer in the way of solutions. A local blogger, and a mate of Eric's, even took a dig at NZEI the day before this protest.
The pikelets caught in some throats and the coffee turned sour in our mouths when Eric snapped at a tearful young teacher who was trying to express how stressed she was at receiving no pay so far this year. She had recently bought a house and was worried about meeting mortgage payments and she tried to explain how she felt when being sworn at by a child in her school the day before. Eric interrupted her story and bluntly told her that a child's behaviour was nothing to do with Novopay. The teacher responded with the explanation that her ability to deal with difficult children isn't helped when she isn't paid to do it and she has difficulty sleeping at night.
The effects of Novapay is more than unreliable remuneration, it is having a direct impact on the way teachers and schools are managing their core responsibility, teaching children.
Given the seriousness of the situation and knowing that some response would be expected from him, Eric had little information about what his Government and Steven Joyce (Mr Fixit) was doing. He thought that they were giving Novopay another three months (90 days) to get things sorted. His main line of argument was that it was Labour's fault for entering into a contract that they couldn't get out of.
In a brief speech outside Eric's Office, I likened Novopay to a passenger jet being sent off into the sky with a full compliment of passengers, a list of known faults and no prior test flights. It was this National led Government that gave it the OK and it is this Government that is trying to fix the problems while it is still in the air. This would be no way to run an airline and it is certainly no way to manage the pays of 90,000 education workers!