I’d like to see science technicians paid what they’re worth.
Sheryl Fitzsimons is a science technician and is on the negotiation team for the science technician's pay equity claim
On being a science technician
The science technician supports the science department, we do all of the behind the scenes work for the teachers and the classes. We set up equipment and make sure experiments are going to work properly. We make all the chemicals for experiments and we do all the shopping to supply what’s needed for the classes.
We have a professional organisation, Science Technicians’ Association of NZ (STANZ) and I’m on that executive as well. We have over 400 members across New Zealand. We’ve been very involved in the pay equity campaign, right from very early days. We’ve just had our 11th biennial conference, so that’s going strong.
I started working in this role when my son was two and he’s nearly twenty now, so it’s been a while.
On being part of a union
My family are union people and they always have been and joining was a normal part of what I would do. I believe in the collective approach and the collective voice, I believe that’s a better way especially if you’re having issues.
I have been extremely grateful for that membership. There have been a couple of times over my eighteen years that I’ve had our local field officer help me through tricky situations. These were valuable experiences and because of that I’m on the local branch as the treasurer.
Pay equity for science technicians
I’d like to see science technicians paid what they’re worth. They’re very undervalued at the moment which makes it a job that people don’t really want to do. It’s hard to entice people into this role with the current pay rates and responsibilities.
Science technicians and school librarians are about to go into negotiations for their pay equity settlement. It’s taken a long time.
It’s getting appropriately valued, getting the recognition and value that we deserve. There’s a lot of things that we’re hoping to fix.
Compliance costs for schools
Our biggest issue at the moment is compliance costs to get suitable chemical storage and safety equipment, and also to dispose of substances that are prohibited for use. I’ve heard through the science technician network about one small decile 4 high school recently being charged $16,148 for chemical disposal. So that’s a big thing for us at the moment.
Working with teachers
One of the reasons I love my job is the people that I work with. There are some amazing teachers here. Their workload has quadrupled in the years I’ve been here and it’s just made them very swamped with documentation. And we have started losing teachers to overload. It’s not a good thing to lose teachers.