Striking teachers are disconnected, says Key

Last updated 17:51 30/08/2010

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The 95.1 per cent of unionised school teachers who voted to take strike action are "disconnected from the real world," Prime Minister John Key says.

Key has lashed out at the teachers after 95.1 per cent of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) voted to strike over stalled pay talks.

Strike action is set to start on September 15 and the PPTA has penciled in further strikes in the last term of the school year if they cannot reach agreement with the Ministry of Education.

Key said he thought the strike action was "very disappointing".

"It just shows you how disconnected they are from the real world," Key said.

He did not think parents would support the action.

"I think parents will find it disruptive. And I think they'll find it unreasonable given the offer that's on the table from the Government."

The Government had entered negotiations "in utter good faith" and it was hopeful of a solution.

"But at the end of the day, there is not an endless bounty of cash out there and it would be quite unfair of us actually to offer the teachers what they want, a four per cent pay increase when eveyone else is settling for less than two."

The PPTA has stuck to their original demand for a 4 percent pay rise as well as extra conditions like laptops and free flu jabs. The Ministry of Education has raised its offer from zero to a 1.5 per cent salary increase, with no new conditions.

PPTA president Kate Gainsford said the union meetings where strike action was agreed were notable for the high degree of unity and determination among teachers. Some 99.3 per cent of members had voted to reject the Ministry's offer and 95.1 per cent had supported strike action.

Over 12,200 members had attended meetings, which was a record, Gainsford said.

Pay was an issue but any settlement would have to address their additional claims.

Key said the Government's offer was consistent with what nurses and the police had agreed to.

"It's in line with the basic level of inflation, and this is a sector where there has been substantial wage increases over the last ten years," Key said.

The Ministry of Education says that in the 10 years to March this year, average teacher pay had increased by $24,243, or almost 50%.

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