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The Government must better manage negotiations and reach a pay agreement with primary teachers and principals to prevent disruption to kids’ learning, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“The announcement today that primary school teachers and principals have voted overwhelmingly to strike in August after rejecting the Government’s pay offer is yet another example of Labour causing an escalation in industrial action since it came into office by promising more than it can deliver.

“If it goes ahead, it will be the first primary teachers’ strike since 1994. It will mean massive disruption to kids’ learning and to parents who may have to take time off work to ensure their kids are looked after while their teachers are on strike.

“Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers during the election campaign. Now Labour is in Government, it can’t follow through.

“National increased teacher salaries by around 17 per cent over our time in Government, all while dealing with the Global Financial Crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.

“Labour has no excuse for not being able to follow through on its promise to significantly increase teacher salaries, given the billions of dollars more that it has to work with.

“This is simply a case of Labour prioritising tertiary students over primary school teachers and students. It can’t say there’s no money left when it chose to spend $2.8 billion on a fees-free policy that saw next to no increase in university participation.

“We know that teachers work very hard to educate our young people and that industrial action is a last resort, which reflects how badly the Government has managed expectations.

“It’s up to the Government to urgently get back round the table and negotiate with teachers and principals to avoid strike action so that children are able to continue learning.”

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