Living Wage Schools campaign to win fairness in the education system

Andre Uncles

Schools are social institutions and community hubs that play a huge role in society by educating our young people as well as employing tens of thousands of people. However, some of the support staff who keep our schools going are getting paid on or near the minimum wage.

The Living Wage Schools campaign has been launched to campaign for workers like cleaners, canteen workers, caretakers, and grounds keepers to get paid at least the Living Wage for their important work.

Like many Living Wage campaigns, it’s about bringing the local communities together to put pressure on these public institutions to do the right thing for their employees. Unions, faith groups, community organisations, parents, teachers, and students are all banding together to tell our schools that fair wages for all are a core part of their social responsibility.

The Living Wage Schools founding hui

Most schools can’t afford to meet these costs alone, so the campaign calls on government to increase funding to ensure everyone working in Aotearoa’s schools is on at least the Living Wage.

E tū member and cleaner at a school in Porirua, Andre Uncles, says that cleaning schools presents unique challenges.

“Cleaning schools is harder than most sites I have worked on in the past,” Andre says.

“We have to clean up urine and faeces on the floor, in our personal shoes. We are under a lot of pressure to finish our work, as we are never given enough time to do as good a job as we would like.

“It makes all the difference when a teacher asks their students to put the chairs up in their classroom. The only person who does it at my school is one of the maths teachers, which makes me feel like they care.”

Andre says that paying at least the Living Wage is all about recognition and respect.

“For me, it would give us self-worth and the feeling that we are being valued for the contribution we make to the school. My workmates and I often think that if we decided not to show up one day, then this whole place would crumble to the ground.”

You can learn more about the Living Wage schools campaign and get involved by visiting