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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.32

This week's issue of "Tertiary Update" coincides with World Teachers' Day. In a joint statement the Directors-General of the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the Executive Director of the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) have appealed to the world community to renew its commitment of support to teachers. The statement also calls for the implementation of guidelines on good practices outlined in the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel. Here in New Zealand, AUS has written to the Prime Minister to remind the government of the need to adhere in particular to the principles of collegiality and academic participation in decision making as set out in the UNESCO Recommendation.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. We're a Union
2. Geology gutted
3. Gowns protest in town
4. Research Polytech-style
5. Privatisation killed Wairarapa Polytech!

AUS has registered as a trade union under the Employment Relations Act (ERA) which came into effect at the beginning of this week. In the immediate and short-term future we will be continuing to represent our members and defend their interests as well as lobbying vigorously for a differentiated tertiary education sector as promised by government. As collective employment contracts expire and we begin the process of negotiating new collective agreements, we will need to ballot members in cases where more than one union is involved. So, may we appeal to AUS members to persuade their colleagues to Join the Union and Join the Collective! "Tertiary Update" notes, by the way, that while unions had been specifically requested not to apply for registration before 18 September, the Department of Labour allowed the Rugby Players Collective to put in their application earlier, making it the first union registered under the new Act!

Staff at Victoria University's Geology department say that if proposed staff cuts announced this week go ahead, one of the highest-quality programmes in the university will not survive. Under the cuts -- aimed at reducing costs in the School of Earth Sciences -- 3.5 out of 9.5 academic, and 4 out of 7 technical positions will go. Head of the Geology Board of Studies, Professor Rodney Grapes says it will not be possible to maintain the department's highly-regarded undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research with only 6 teaching staff and with 4 fewer technicians.

There was no trouble spotting the Massey staff during a protest in Palmerston North on Friday. Members of AUS and other unions wore academic dress and lab coats as they handed out leaflets to passersby detailing the "troubles" on campus and the university's "derisory" contract offer, which is less than the increase in the cost of living. While the demonstration was going on, other union colleagues were faxing and e-mailing the Vice-Chancellor outlining their dissatisfaction at the offer.

The Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steven Maharey has given assurances that polytechnics will be encouraged to pursue research that is quite distinct from that undertaken by universities. In an address to a conference at Northland Polytechnic, the Minister said polytechnics would continue to offer degree courses, and those degrees would be required to have a research underpinning. He said polytechnic researchers were involved in a number of valuable projects closely linked to local industry, and offering work experience to students. These included a Otago Polytechnic project using existing electric fences to monitor rainfall, temperature and water trough levels, and work by Whitireia Polytechnic's Pacific Health Research Centre. Mr Maharey said the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) would be giving careful consideration to how the get the best out of polytechnic research within the nationwide tertiary system.

ASTE, responding to our recent item ("Tertiary Update", Vol. 3 No. 31) on the problems at Wairarapa Polytechnic, points out that the “Manawatu Evening Standard” comments are only part of the story. While underfunding of tertiary education institutions did indeed make it difficult for smaller institutions to cope, ASTE suggests the biggest factor in the death of Wairarapa Polytech was privatisation. In two years, equivalent fulltime student numbers at the polytechnic dropped from 585 to 350 -- meaning the institution was no longer viable. At the same time, nearly 300 equivalent fulltime students are in private training enterprises in Masterton, taking government money away from the public sector. ASTE also points out that former Wairarapa staff who accept a job with UCOL will have to go on to basic individual contracts, losing the conditions they gained through their collective contract. Talks are to start next week with the UCOL Chief Executive to try to preserve the conditions of these members. In the meantime, ASTE officials say, the case highlights the need for a 'transfer of undertakings' clause in the ERA.


The authorities at the University of the South Pacific in Suva have overturned a bid by the students association to cancel elections. Some students had suggested an "interim administration" take over, in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the current Fijian government which took power, unelected, in the wake of the coup in Fiji. But the authorities have stepped in saying there is no provision in the association's constitution for postponing elections. The University Provost, Filimoni Fifita was appointed returning officer and elections were held last Friday.

An appeals court in the United States has ruled that three professors at the University of Vincennes in southwestern Indiana have a case against their University, which penalised them financially after they criticised the institution. The three received smaller increases than their colleagues when the university awarded raises in 1995 to bring salaries into line with neighbouring colleges. They argued that since their job performance evaluations were satisfactory, the differential treatment was to punish them for speaking out against Vincennes' employment policies. The university argued that the three could not claim that they had been victims of retaliation because they did not suffer adverse job affects other than the low pay rise. But the Court of Appeal disagreed, saying that any action that chills free speech can be considered retaliation, even if it is "something as trivial as making fun of an employee for bringing a birthday cake" to an office party.

AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website:

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