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Increasing salaries should be election focus



Association of University Staff


Media Release


Attn Education/Industrial Reporter                                     10 July 2008

Increasing salaries should be election focus

Increasing wages and salaries in New Zealand should be a major focus of debate in election year rather than lowering taxes and cutting government spending, according to the Association of University Staff (AUS). It says that the current debate on tax cuts is too narrow and that it would be more productive to concentrate on lifting wages and salaries to levels comparable to those in Australia and other countries with which New Zealand competes for labour.

University staff are voting this week to decide whether to initiate bargaining for national collective employment agreements as one measure to try and address international salary disparities. The national agreements would replace current enterprise-based ones, negotiated separately at each university.

AUS national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, said that New Zealand weekly wages in 2007 averaged around $731.04, compared with the $NZ1029.26 in Australia. “Such a significant difference in the spending power of New Zealand workers will not be addressed by tax cuts of between $15 and $20 a week; it is up to employers to lift their game and substantially increase wage levels,” she said. “During the era of the Employment Contracts Act, New Zealand wage and salary levels dropped from being broadly equivalent to those in Australia to being around 30 percent behind.”

Associate Professor Montgomery said it is ironic that there are a large number of Australian companies in New Zealand paying their workers significantly less than their Australian counterparts, while at the same time taking huge profits out of the country. “Higher levels of productivity have been used as a justification for higher wages in Australia, but we do not accept that New Zealand workers are generally any less skilled or hard-working than their Australian counterparts,” she said.

New Zealand universities recruit more than 50 percent of staff from the international market, yet salaries remain as much as 25 percent behind Australia, even when adjusted for cost of living.





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