Kindy teachers are next in line to take their pay fight to the Government, following successful industrial action from primary and secondary teachers.
In the past they've enjoyed pay parity with their primary school colleagues, but with the latter achieving parity with secondary teachers, those working in kindergartens have been left well behind.
"Early childhood teaching is on the skills shortage list for immigration, and we've got the same issues as primary [schools] - people coming in, then not getting enough to be able to stay," New Zealand Educational Institute spokesperson Virginia Oakly told The AM Show on Thursday.
"The early years are the most important. The most growth and development for children is happening at that time. It's really critical. There's a lot of important milestones... and we play a vital role in that."
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Kindy teachers say they have serious issues around workload, release time, and retention of experienced teachers.
"Why would you go into teaching if that's what you're going to be on?" said Oakly.
According to the offer NZEI members approved last month, qualified new entrant teachers in both primary and secondary schools will start on $48,410, rising to $51,358 in 2021.
Oakly said she wasn't sure what it would cost the taxpayer to give kindergarten teachers pay parity, but it didn't matter.
"We go into negotiations with the issues that need to be resolved for our members - not the dollars... We know that pays out in the end. If we get it right in the early years, we save later on. It's an investment and we need it."
Kindergarten teachers are set to enter pay negotiations soon, with their most recent contract expiring in May.
"Now that primary teachers have secured parity with their secondary colleagues, we'll be looking to secure the same deal for kindergarten teachers through a unified pay scale," said Oakly.
Primary and secondary teachers won huge concessions out of the Government after staging the biggest strikes the sector has ever seen, after months of being told there was no extra money.