Teachers and principals at primary and secondary schools look set to refuse a $6000 pay rise describing it as disappointing and hard to stomach.
For most teachers the Education Ministry's offer would provide about half the increase teacher unions, the Post Primary Teachers Association and Educational Institute, are seeking.
The offer was $4000 on settlement with no backdating, a further $2000 next year and for principals a $5000 increase in schools' operations grants to be used for principals' wellbeing.
For teachers starting their career the offer would provide a pay rise of 10 percent spread over two years, but for most teachers, who are earning $90,000 a year or more, it was worth less than 7 percent over two years or half the current rate of inflation.
Wellington primary school teacher Carl Pynenberg said it was hard to stomach such a low offer.
"It's always disappointing to look at record high inflation and an offer that doesn't even come close to matching that," he said.
"You're worse off and then a year later you're even more worse off. The big spike that we won in our previous collective agreement is sort of eroded away by inflation."
Auckland teacher Kahli Oliviera said she was sad the offer did nothing to reduce class sizes and provide more support for disabled children.
"Education needs a big investment, we need someone to be brave for us. We need someone to look at the things that we're saying could make a huge difference for the children and the families that we have and we know there are so many struggling," she said.
"And teachers are struggling too. The workload and the weight that weighs on our shoulders in terms of not being able to do what we'd love to do."
Educational Institute president Liam Rutherford said teachers' pay must keep up with inflation, especially after all the hard work teachers had done in the past three years.
"We have had a pandemic where a lot of the narrative has been recognising the important job of teachers and I guess teachers were hoping the response from the government was going to be more than 'thanks' because what they've actually been offered is going to be pay increases that are actually going to take them backwards and, at a time where we are losing some of our most experienced teachers, that's a real problem," he said.
PPTA president Melanie Webber said for most teachers the ministry's two-year offer was about half what the union had asked for over the same period.
"We're looking at in real terms an actual pay cut for members at the moment of around six percent," she said.
That would make it difficult for teachers to feed their families and afford dentist visits.
Webber said the union's members were upset by the ministry's offer.
"They feel really insulted, they feel like the mahi that they've done over the last few years has just been ignored. And I think they're particularly upset that a number of our claims are things that we directly need to help our akonga or students are just being dismissed."
Webber said the PPTA would hold paid union meetings in a couple of weeks to discuss the offer and next steps that could include industrial action.
The Education Ministry said it was continuing negotiations in good faith.