ACT leader David Seymour criticises Government's pay negotiation strategy as 50,000 teachers prepare to strike

ACT Party leader David Seymour has come out swinging at the Government's pay negotiation strategy as thousands of teachers prepare to walk off the job.  

A full "mega" strike of teachers will go ahead as planned on Thursday after a meeting between the Government and the union representing primary school teachers failed to reach an agreement.

About 30,000 primary school teachers and around 20,000 secondary school and kindergarten educators are striking, meaning up to 50,000 teachers will be taking industrial action in total.

This will mean about 800,000 students from preschool to Year 13 will be impacted but some schools have applied for exemptions.

Seymour told AM Early on Wednesday the fact it's got to this point shows something has gone wrong. 

"Kids in this generation have already missed far too much school, even just this year," he told host Nicky Styris.

"The question is, why are teachers striking? Well, they're not paid enough.

"Over the last 40 years, their relative wages have declined against the rest of payments to other workers across New Zealand. And second of all, they are treated so badly with huge amounts of bureaucracy."

Seymour said teachers are fed up with spending their time filling out forms and just want to teach. 

"They say to me, 'Look, all I wanted to do is teach kids, and all I actually do is fill out paperwork because of the Government,'" he said. 

Seymour said ACT's alternative budget would give the average teacher another $5000. 

"Then we'd cut tax by anywhere from $2000-$3000 for someone on a teacher's salary. So we give them seven or eight grand back on top of the usual adjustments," Seymour told AM Early. 

"I think that would get them treated like adults. We would be paying them properly and we'd also fundamentally shift the way we manage schools. 

"We'd ask, did the kids show up and how much did they learn in the long term?"

ACT Party leader David Seymour.
ACT Party leader David Seymour. Photo credit: AM

One issue raised with the strike is the disruption it's going to have on children and parents. 

Numerous parents emailed AM last week saying they were against the timing of the strike.

"Disruption is not good, would love the kids to be in class - but thoroughly support the teachers striking," one person told Newshub on Tuesday.

"It's not terribly convenient, but I understand the whys and wherefores behind it," another said.

"Parents can figure it out - teachers should do what it takes to do what they deserve," said another. 

Education Minister Jan Tinetti will appear on AM later on Wednesday morning to discuss the strike.

Watch the full interview with David Seymour in the video above.