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AUS Tertiary Update 25 October 2002

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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 39 , 25 October 2002
In our lead story this week…..
Academic staff at Waikato have rejected a 2.5% salary offer from their employer and a ballot on industrial action is to be held next Thursday. More than 70% of staff turned out for this week's ratification meeting which voted to turn down a package that also included restructuring of salary scales and modest increases in annual and paid parental leave. The university management put the full cost of the package at around 3.5%, but staff decided it was insufficient to keep pace with other proposed New Zealand university settlements, let alone compete on international academic or domestic professional salary markets. Other issues, including further development on workload frameworks and restricting the results of negotiation to union-members only, were rejected by the employer. Waikato general staff have indicated that they are also likely to reject their 2.5% offer.
Meanwhile, Massey staff have accepted a 3.5% salary offer from their employer. Union members will get the rise from the date of ratification -– 2 months before the expiry date of the current collective agreement, raising the net value of the offer to around 4.1%. At Otago, staff conclude ratification meetings on the employer’s offer today (Friday) – the salary offer was increased to 4% after staff undertook industrial action. Combined unions spokesperson, Dr Shef Rogers, said it was also likely that if the offer was ratified, a motion would be put to staff, regarding a union commitment to work with the university, to put as strong a case as possible to Government for more funding. “We need to remind Government the solution is ultimately their problem and to keep the pressure on Otago management to keep working with us to focus on Government funding,” said Dr Rogers.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. CTU wants employer/employee liaison on health and safety
2. Education Reform Bill - still waiting
3. Massey Vice-Chancellor named
4. British MPs attack 'uncoordinated' approach to pay
5. Monash student charged with murders
6. Australian research: cuts and casual work affecting quality

The Council of Trade Unions wants employers to involve employees in health and safety management in the light of new legislation which for the first time sees occupational stress identified as a workplace hazard. CTU President, Ross Wilson said there was strong international evidence which indicates that employee and union involvement was crucial to successful injury prevention and health protection strategies. "It is time we sent a consistent message, from political, business and union leaders alike, that the present appalling death toll is not good enough and that urgent action must be taken by employers and employees to clean up unsafe workplaces, and that must be backed up by strong laws," said Mr Wilson.
Research conducted for the AUS in 1998 revealed that university staff were reporting higher levels of work-related illness or injury, and generally exhibiting the symptoms of workplace stress at higher levels than ever before. "Anecdotal evidence would suggest that occupational stress has increased significantly since that time making the new legislation particularly relevant and important to university staff," said AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly.

Delays in passing the Education Reform Bill continue. Aspects of the Bill have been the subject of discussion and negotiation between Government, opposition parties and lobby groups - and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee is continuing its efforts to have an additional clause included. The clause would ensure that if the implementation of the fees maxima policy proves unreasonable, universities would have recourse to judicial review. Following the release of a number of supplementary order papers proposing several changes to the legislation [see Tertiary Update last week] and the interruption of its committee stage, the Bill is not expected back in the House until later in November. This means that the Tertiary Education Commission will continue in its transition form until January next year.

Professor Judith Kinnear has been appointed as Massey University's new Vice-Chancellor – the first woman in New Zealand to hold that position. She is currently a deputy vice-chancellor and professor of biological sciences at the University of Sydney. Professor Kinnear was one of four people shortlisted for the position and Massey Chancellor, Morva Crozon, said she had won the job because of her great strengths in research, publication, teaching and management. Professor Kinnear told local media that student loans and how they affect students will be a top priority for her and that, “I fundamentally see myself as an academic, because universities are not businesses. They need to be managed, but their core business is one of teaching, research and community service”. Massey Students' Association President, Huia Welton, welcomed the appointment but was critical of the secrecy surrounding the appointment process. AUS National President, Dr Grant Duncan, in a recent media release directed at future selection processes for Vice-Chancellor positions, noted that secrecy was inappropriate in a university context.

Senior MPs in Britain have criticised government departments for not co-operating in the setting of scientists' pay rates. The Office of Science and Technology has boosted the pay for post-doctoral researchers by £4000, but the MPs complained that this did not appear to have been taken into account by the Department for Education and Skills in funding pay further up the academic scale. They also said the hike for the young researchers could have a knock-on effect on lecturers' salaries, with the researchers having to take a pay cut if they took up a junior lecturer position.

A 36-year-old Monash University student, Xiang Huan Yun has been charged with the murder of two students and the attempted murder of five others following a shooting incident at the university earlier this week. Security was tight for his appearance before magistrates and was remanded in custody until February 2003. Xiang was not required to enter a plea, and did not apply for bail. The two students killed in the shooting were both honours students in the department of econometrics and business statistics. In response to concerns regarding student safety, the Monash Vice-Chancellor, Peter Darvall, has stated that, “All I can say is our university is as safe as any other part of the community”. Surveys of overseas students have shown that Australian’s safe environment is one of the big influences on their decisions to study there.

A research project examining changes in academic work in Australia has found that half the country's academics believe the academic standards of graduates has declined and almost as many report a decline in the quality of incoming students. Around 40% agree that grades have been inflated but only 25% think this is a change for the worse and most believe that plagiarism has increased. The research was done for the Department of Education, Science and Training but it has never released the final report. The figures came to light when one of the research team, Don Anderson, summarised the findings in a submission to the Australian Government's higher education review. Since cuts to operating grants in 1996, Australian universities have argued that the quality of education is at risk and Mr Anderson's submission identifies this as the key problem. He called for a national agency to be set up to measure and monitor standards across the sector. His submission also highlights the effect a growing proportion of casual staff is having on universities. A majority of respondents thought casualisation of university teaching was having an adverse effect on quality and academic standards, with some saying the training and supervision of casuals was adding to their work. On the other hand, casuals were likely to be paid poorly, made to feel on the outer, not provided with much guidance or training and neglected by the over-worked academics for whom they provide relief from the burden of teaching.
AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website: Direct enquiries to Margaret Ledgerton, Policy Analyst:

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