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Teacher unions, education minister to discuss issues today

Teacher unions and the government will meet today to seek a solution to stalled collective agreement negotiations.

Striking teachers and supporters in Napier on 29 May. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Education Minister Chris Hipkins called the meeting following last week's first-ever nationwide joint strike by nearly 50,000 primary teachers and principals and secondary teachers.

Additionally, five weeks of rolling secondary school industrial action that began this week.

The two sides are stuck on offers that would give most teachers three pay rises of 3 percent each, as well as a new top step on the pay scale for primary school teachers.

The government said those offers will cost $1.2 billion over four years, and it would not spend more.

But the Educational Institute and the Post Primary Teachers Association said the offers did not address the pay and workload problems their members are facing.

While both unions and the government weren't commenting before the meeting, David Fleming, an employment lawyer with extensive mediation experience told Morning Report industrial bargaining often involved people becoming entrenched "because no one wants to accept a deal knowing it's not the best deal they might have gotten".

"In this situation, tension's built up for quite a long time, pressures and expectations build - the teacher's want to see progress, the government's wanting to see financial constraints.

"In the end, is to say 'here we are, if we continue to reiterate the demands that we made of each other, we're going to be deadlocked and there's going to be more and more harm done'.

"Union members don't generally want to be going on longer and longer strikes."

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