Government 'just useless' at negotiating with teachers - Judith Collins

National Party MP Judith Collins has slammed the Government's handling of the teacher pay negotiations as "useless".

Primary school teachers have voted to go on strike again, only months after their first nationwide industrial action in 24 years.

As it happened: Two-day primary teachers' strike

Ms Collins, who recently polled narrowly behind her leader Simon Bridges in the preferred Prime Minister stakes, told The AM Show on Friday there have been more strikes in 12 months under Labour than the nine years National was in power.

"They're just useless, that's the problem. We've had more strikes under Labour in 12 months than we had under nine years of National.

"Iain Lees-Galloway, the minister for strikes, as I call him now, he came out the other day basically saying it's great that everyone's on strike. Honestly, they're just sending out all the wrong messages. Remember, they're in Government - they should be trying to stop strikes, not start them."

Judith Collins and Michael Wood.
Judith Collins and Michael Wood. Photo credit: The AM Show

Mr Lees-Galloway, Minister for Workplace Relations, told Parliament on Wednesday he can "understand why people whose wages were supressed for nine long years under the previous Government now see the opportunity to get a fairer share of a prospering economy".

"They've seen how this Government is running the books, they've seen the fact that this Government is responsible in the way it runs surpluses and in the way it spends taxpayers' money, they're feeling confident, and they want a decent share - at last."

Mr Bridges responded by saying Mr Lees-Galloway was "revving" the unions up.

"They've got militant because they know that Grant Robertson is going to pay the piper, and that's what we've got right there."

Iain Lees-Galloway.
Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo credit: Newshub.

Labour MP Michael Wood, appearing alongside Ms Collins on The AM Show, said the piper's already put $500 million on the table.

"That's more than the three offers combined that National put on the table and that were accepted when they were in office," he said.

It's not just teachers who have gone on strike this year - nurses walked off the job in July, and there has also been industrial action from IRD and MBIE employees.

Mr Wood said teachers know there is now "a Government that would listen to them".

"They knew that mum would actually listen. Now, mum's purse isn't limitless, but we do actually want to sit down and work this stuff out in a constructive way. There's $500 million on the table, about a $7000 increase for your average teacher [over three years] That increase is worth all of the three offers National put on the table combined."

"So how come they're striking?" replied Ms Collins. "Honestly, they're just useless at this."

'Pay is an issue'

NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) president Lynda Stuart said it's because what's on offer just isn't enough.

"We can't attract people into teaching, and the Government realises that too," she told The AM Show.

"We've had a 40 percent drop in people going into initial teacher education. Money is a factor. Young people now when they leave school, when they leave university, actually have huge choices and options they can make - and teaching is not one of them. So pay is an issue."

Lynda Stuart.
Lynda Stuart. Photo credit: The AM Show

She said the decision tostrike wasn't taken lightly. NZEI and the Ministry of Education have approached the Employment Relations Authority to see if it can facilitate the negotiations, hoping the strike can be avoided.

"I'm hopeful we will reach an agreed settlement, and that would be absolutely the desired outcome. It has been the desired outcome the whole way through," said Ms Stuart.

Asked if she felt teachers were being "ripped off" by a Labour-led Government that's meant to be on their side, she said teachers understand the scale of the problem.

"This Government has huge issues to face in education. We know that, we understand that. What we are saying is that this is the time for these particular issues to be dealt with at this moment in our collective agreement negotiations."

If negotiations fail, primary school teachers will begin rolling strikes on November 12.