Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has flatly rejected primary teachers' demand for more money.
The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) overwhelmingly turned down the Ministry of Education's latest $700 million offer today, meaning that another nationwide mega-strike is on the cards next month.
NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart revealed the results of voting over the Ministry of Education's offer to settle the collective agreements this morning. The results showed teachers and principals were united in their commitment to getting significantly improved pay, time and support for learning needs, she said.
Asked whether there was any more money for them at a press conference this afternoon, Ardern was emphatic: "No."
She added: "I understand the frustration of teachers and principals, I do, because there are a large number of needs in education," she said.
"But from the Government's perspective, we're also facing a range of competing needs in areas that I know teachers care about too."
The latest offer from the Ministry of Education was presented on February 27 and featured two new options within the total $698 million available.
The first option meant a new step on the base pay scale - worth around $10,000 more for experienced teachers - would be introduced in a year rather than two years.
The second option would give primary teachers receive on additional 10 hours of classroom release for three years, in addition to the salary increases offered in November.
Stuart said members had agreed to call paid union meetings in the second week of next term (May 6-10) and if no progress is made, NZEI is proposing members to vote on taking partial strike action by working to rule from May 15 until a national day of strike action on May 29.
The work to rule would mean working only within 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
"We would all prefer to be in our schools focused on teaching and learning, but members have sent a very clear message that they want to see change," Stuart said.
"That's why our next step is discussions with Government to see how we can make progress."
The union, the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI), held the vote by electronic ballot instead of at paid union meetings, a change that was made in light of the mosque attacks.
They have already held two one-day strikes - a national strike on August 15 last year and a series of regional one-day strikes last November.
The $698 million offer over four years is $129 million more than the previous Ministry of Education offer.
Primary school principal says the wider community will feel effects of looming strike
Strike action is far from the preferred option for teachers and principals but if it's what it takes to wake up the Government, it's an action many are prepared to take.
'IT'S A COMPLEX, DEMANDING JOB'
Russell School, in Porirua East, principal Sose Annandale said if a mega-strike were to take place people would lose work and pay.
"People won't be able to go to work because they'll have to stay home to care for their kids so they lose a day's pay, for them that's huge," she said.
"What blows me away is that [the] community comes up to me to says they are behind this and they back this, they want this for their kids.
"Imagine how that makes me feel when I'm standing there, knowing full well the salary that I take home and possibly the salary they're taking home."
Annandale said primary schools and their employees aren't asking for much, they just want the Government to invest in the future.
"Everybody is making out that we are asking for an arm and a leg but we're just saying we want to catch up," she said.
"It's a complex, demanding job and all we are saying is 'C'mon Government, invest in the future of our nation'."
What you need to know:
• The total cost of the rejected offer was $698 million over four years, an increase of $129 million than the previous.
• Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there is no more money the Government can offer teachers and principals.
• A nationwide mega-strike looms and is being proposed on May 29, unless a deal between NZEI and the Government can be made.
• Paid union meetings are set to take place in week two of next term (May 6-10).
• If no progress is made, NZEI is proposing a partial strike action by working to rule from May 15 until a national day of strike action on May 29.