Early-childhood staff at ABC centres across New Zealand must choose between taking a pay raise, or having their wages cut for better working conditions.

Staff were expecting a two per cent pay increase this year, but have instead been asked to take a five per cent pay cut in return for a reduced workload and higher teacher-to-children ratios.

New Zealand Educational Institute national secretary Paul Goulter said the move was unexpected.

"It hadn't been signalled ... Obviously it was a surprise."


Mr Goulter said while taking the pay cut is voluntary, staff were being put in a difficult position.

"It's a very hard position for the staff to be in because they have to make a choice between the circumstances that the company's describing: That it needs to make these cuts in order to provide better teacher-children ratios and providing additional professional development and administration assistance on the one hand, versus the obvious detriment that any individual is going to face in either not getting an expected increase or getting wages cut.

"That's a very difficult one, and one that obviously we don't like, predictably, people being put in this position. And obviously it's raised levels of concern within the organisation."

Mr Gaulter says he believes a number of staff will not accept having their pay cut by five per cent.

He says Kidicorp staff had until today to notify management of how they were going to deal with the options.

"Obviously I don't know what that result is and I suspect those things are still coming in."

The ABC centres were bought by Tauranga-based Kidicorp in September last year, following the demise of ABC's parent company in 2008.

Kidicorp managing director and owner Wayne Wright was unavailable for comment today.