Victoria University industrial action to contine
12 April 2000
Attention Education Reporters:
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY INDUSTRIAL ACTION TO CONTINUE: STAFF REELING AFTER REFUSAL FROM VICE CHANCELLOR
The determination of members of the Association of University Staff [AUS] and Public Service Association [PSA] at Victoria University, to protect their right to fair contract negotiations has strengthened after a pre-Easter strike. "Members have shown the strength of their resolve at meetings yesterday and today. We will be building up to an indefinite withdrawal of examination results in June. The negotiations now hinge around a matter of principle which staff will not compromise on" said Tony Quinn, General Staff Vice-President.
University staff went on strike on Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th March after the Vice Chancellor's refusal of a counter-offer where staff accepted the university's offer of 3.2% if a late claim to alter the term of the agreement and a proposed Memorandum of Understanding was withdrawn. Staff demand that these conditions be met. The university waited to put forward the late claim until after staff had called off a strike scheduled for the 4th March. Staff were appalled, and question whether this is in line with the principles of good faith bargaining. The claim to alter the term of the agreement threatens to compromise staff bargaining power because it will mean the university budget will be set before negotiations are underway, and it will position the crucial time for negotiations during the December/January period when most staff at the university are required to take their annual leave.
"This timing will completely undermine the process of negotiations. Not only will the university budget have been decided, but our ability to communicate with members will be undermined. During this period we cannot progress negotiations effectively because we, unlike the Vice Chancellor, are representatives and must get feedback from our members at every stage of negotiations" said Christine McCarthy, Academic President "The claim to alter the term is a recipe for prolonged negotiations - it is not a claim that would come from an institution interested in productive discussions, nor an institution which cherishes effective staff communication."
The proposed Memorandum of Understanding staff found equally unacceptable. "The Memorandum of Understanding means this is not a true 3.2% increase for staff salaries. The Memorandum makes 1.2% of the 3.2% increase conditional on government funding" said Tony Quinn, General Staff President. According to Stuart McCutcheon, the Vice-Chancellor at Victoria University, removing the Memorandum of Understanding "would expose the University's financial position to an unacceptable level of risk". Unconditional salary offers at Waikato of 3.2% and Massey of 3.5% demonstrate that the Victoria offer is not overly generous. Waikato University reported an operating surplus of $4.9 million while Victoria reported a $5.1 million profit.
"The Vice-Chancellor’s statement regarding the Memorandum of Understanding simply points to a lack of long term commitment to staff salaries. Victoria University increased its income from students by 10% in the last year. This increase is largely due to increasing student numbers which means increasing teaching loads, more assignments to mark, more library books to issue, and more enrolment forms to process. This is work done by underpaid staff - not by managers such as the Vice-Chancellor. We are bearing the brunt of increasing students in our increasing workloads and the university is not willing to recognise this in our renumeration, nor it is prepared to negotiate with us fairly" said Christine McCarthy.
In contrast to the 10% increase Victoria University gained from the increase in student numbers, the spending on staff over the year was a mere 1.4%. Similar figures at Otago University show an increase in student revenue of 2.8% and an increase in expenditure of staff of 1.5%. The latest figures for student enrolment this year show another increase in enrolments. "The management may be over the moon with another year of significant increases in student numbers but staff know that this increase will mean they will be even more stretched and the education students receive will be compromised further" Tony Quinn concluded.
Tony Quinn, General Staff President ph: 463 6187
Christine McCarthy, Academic Staff President ph: 463-6164