Chris Hipkins has apologised over the delay for teachers' pay rises, as the teachers' unions announced they're taking legal action over the Novopay payroll system.
Teachers have been told the one-off $1500 payment they were promised after accepting the Government's latest offer, would be delayed, as well as their actual wage increase.
"I'm sorry that we have to ask teachers to wait a little longer to get the pay rises they fought hard to get. It's frustrating," Hipkins, the Education Minister, said in a tweet Wednesday.
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"If there is a way to speed up the process, I'd make it happen. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer here."
The minister's apology comes as the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) and New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) trade union announced planned legal action over the delays.
"We have instructed our lawyers to file proceedings seeking urgent compliance orders for payment and, if necessary, penalties for late payment," PPTA president Jack Boyle said in a statement.
"This delay is completely unacceptable."
Novopay - the web-based payroll system for state and state integrated schools in New Zealand - said on Tuesday that teachers would have to wait another month before their pay increase kicks in.
It said teachers' one-off $1500 payment will come through on the July 31 pay run, but the actual wage increase won't come until September 11, seven weeks from now.
Hipkins said he met with Education Payroll and the Ministry of Education on Wednesday.
He said he "reluctantly" accepted that the "complexity of implementing a unified pay scale and making significant changes to the agreement is going to result in a delay in implementation".
"The legacy of the Novopay debacle still haunts us," he added, reflecting on the payroll system launched in 2011, which has wreaked havoc on teachers' pay over the years.
"The replacement of Novopay is underway, with a new system developed and being slowly and carefully implemented so we avoid another meltdown," Hipkins said.
"It will help to avoid these frustrations in the future, but alone won't fix everything.
"The school payroll remains the most complex in the country and our move to unify it and have everyone change at the same time has added to the pressure."
Hipkins said there are 51,000 people on the payroll, each with different pay and allowances, meaning there are over 139,000 pay adjustments to do.
Last month primary and secondary teachers voted to accept the Government's revised offer of more than $1.4 billion, which restored pay parity for teachers.
But primary school principals rejected the offer, as they were not given pay parity with their secondary school counterparts.
Teachers who were members of NZEI were supposed to receive a one-off pro rata payment of $1500 on June 13.
The offer came after primary and secondary school teachers took part is a "mega-strike" that saw 50,000 teachers protesting on the streets.