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Vote for strike at Otago University 'Overwhelming'

AUS WEB SITE29 August 2002

Vote for Strike at Otago University “Overwhelming”

679 members of the five combined unions at Otago University attended stopwork meetings in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington over the past two days. Members of these unions represent academic, general and trades staff from throughout the institution.

All three meetings discussed the breakdown in collective employment agreement negotiations, after the employer refused to move beyond a 1.5% salary increase. Secret ballots were held to confirm strike action set for Monday 2 September and possible rolling stoppages to follow, if no significant progress is made, while the other four resolutions listed below were overwhelmingly endorsed by a show of hands.

These resolutions are in addition to the withholding of exam questions which was agreed to by members at meetings last week. Exam questions are to be withheld until the offer from the employer increases significantly. Dr. Shef Rogers, Spokesperson for the Combined Unions, commented, “Staff regret the need to take such actions and sincerely hope that the issues can be resolved quickly to avoid any further disruption for students. However, after more than a decade of eroding conditions and salaries, staff are not willing to accept an effective pay cut relative to current CPI estimates of 2.9%. The employer’s offer of 1.5% is particularly insulting because the government has already offered the University 4.5% on its teaching income, which amounts to an increase of just over 3% in its total budget.”

The atmosphere at all three meetings was consistently described as focussed, serious and determined. Dr. Rogers pointed out that if Monday’s strike were not averted, it would be the first in Otago’s history. “I’d rather the University were in the news for all the valuable teaching and research that goes on here. But these resolutions are an expression of staff concerns about recruitment and salary relativities, and their ultimate purpose is to ensure that Otago remains an outstanding educational institution.” A senior staff source, quoted in the Otago Daily Times today, said that the proposed action would: “…shut this place down when you consider that most of the permanent staff are involved.”

The Resolutions:

1. (Voted on by secret ballot). Members reconfirm our intention to strike from 12:15 pm Monday 2 September 2002 for a half day.
91% in favour; 9% against

2. The negotiating team shall have the authority to issue dispensations from strike action where this is deemed appropriate.
99% in favour, two abstentions

3. No union member shall assist with reporting staff participation or non-participation in any industrial action, but shall ignore such requests or return a notice stating that ' Due to current industrial action, I am unable to respond to your request.'
99% in favour, three abstentions

4. Should any member of these combined unions be suspended by the employer for participating in industrial action, all members of these combined unions shall stop work immediately upon notification and not return to work until meetings have resolved on how to proceed.
99% in favour, two absentions

5. (Voted on by secret ballot). Members authorise the combined unions negotiating team to plan and initiate rolling stoppages across all campuses with the intention of minimising notice and maximising disruption of employer activities.
91% in favour; 9% against, 1 abstentions (written on ballot)

6. If by Monday 9 September, no significant offer of increase has been made by the employer, the negotiating team is authorised to institute a work to rule in appropriate areas.
99% in favour, two absentions

Contact Persons:

Shef Rogers, Spokesperson for Combined Unions
479-8892; fax 479-8558; home phone 473-0527

Mark Ryan, co-advocate for Combined Unions
Office03-474-7400; cell phone 025-915-138

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