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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIn our lead story this week…..
AUS settlements prompt Auckland 'catch up'
Salary settlements at other New Zealand universities have prompted the University of Auckland to make a supplementary 2.5% salary offer to staff, effective from 1 February next year.
Auckland University had settled on a 4.5% pay deal over 2 years, from 1 February this year, but settlements reached by the Association of University Staff (AUS) at other universities have created a benchmark of 7% over the same two year period. AUS members at Massey, Victoria, Waikato and Otago have all recently reached agreement with their employers.
Auckland has consequently been left lagging behind other universities, resulting in the decision by Auckland Vice Chancellor, John Hood, to increase salaries by the further 2.5%.
AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that the original Auckland settlement had left the door open for further pay increases, although dependent on Government funding. While the University had initially claimed the Government funding increase for 2003 was insufficient to provide further salary increases, it has now been forced to find the money from an internal un-allocated fund called the Planned Case Initiative Fund.
Helen Kelly said staff welcomed the increase but questioned why the University did not make the offer in the original negotiations. She said the 'catch up' confirmed the AUS view that University bargaining patterns are so similar, they simply follow each other, making multi-employer bargaining the logical and efficient step to pursue in the next bargaining round.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Unitec/AUT merger talks confirmed
2. Waikato staff settle agreements
3. Sector leadership sought for tertiary reforms
4. Otago funding campaign launched
5. UK Universities under fire over short-term contracts
6. Iran professor persecuted

Unitec/AUT merger talks confirmed
Auckland’s University of Technology (AUT) and Unitec are considering merging following the release of a working group report on the benefits of such a merger. It is understood that the AUT Council has now sought a comprehensive academic and business analysis, including details of costs, benefits and potential risks. The analysis, expected to be completed early next year, will look at the academic implications, following which a decision will be made whether to proceed to formal merger negotiations.
The Associate Minister of Education, Steve Maharey, said that while he was aware of the discussions between AUT and Unitec there had been no formal proposal presented to Government.
AUS National President, Dr Grant Duncan, said that if the merger proceeds it would leave Manukau as the only polytechnic operating in the Auckland region. “Auckland needs an expansion not a contraction of traditional polytechnics and such a merger could jeopardize the public provision of high quality training in the trades and other areas, including the health sector”, he said. Dr Duncan pointed to current Government policy which focuses on a need to radically improve and expand New Zealand’s skill-base and said that polytechnics were essential to achieving that goal. “There is a significant potential for polytechnics in the Auckland region to liaise with Industry Training Organisations and the health industry in particular to capitalise on the training needs of those sectors”, he said.

Waikato staff settle collective agreements
Staff at Waikato University have voted to ratify new collective employment agreements for academic and general staff. The settlements will see around 800 union members receive a minimum 3.5% salary increase, backdated to 1 October 2002. In addition, eligible staff will receive increases in paid parental leave, and a number of working groups will allow University management and unions to address on-going workload issues. The academic staff agreement includes a significant restructuring of the salary scales, allowing some staff to receive as much as 5.6%.
Meanwhile, negotiations at Lincoln are set to resume on 5 December after that University made a 2% salary offer to general staff and 1.5% to academics. Canterbury staff will consider their current offer, of a 2% salary increase, at meetings over the next fortnight.

Sector leadership sought for tertiary reforms
Associate Education Minister, Steve Maharey, has urged delegates attending the recent Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand conference to seize the opportunities opened up by the government's tertiary education reforms. He told conference delegates that there is a middle way between a laissez-faire competitive model and a highly centralized control model. “Possibly the biggest challenge for the tertiary sector”, he said, “will be an increased need, in light of the new culture and new incentives, to respond collectively, as a sector, rather than each institution working in isolation. The role of the Tertiary Education Commission will not be to direct all the operations of this system, but instead to facilitate, coordinate and sometimes to ask searching questions”.

Otago funding campaign launched
Otago University has launched a campaign aimed at securing government funding on the basis of matching private donations dollar-for-dollar. The campaign, launched last week, is intending to raise $50 million in the next three to five years with half to come from private and corporate donations and half from the government’s Partnerships for Excellence scheme. Otago University’s development director, Clive Matthewson, said the increased funding will be used for new initiatives including scholarships and new professorial chairs.
Applications for the Partnership for Excellence scheme will be considered in the budget round each year and decisions based on the applicant’s contribution to increasing New Zealand’s tertiary education capacity at a world class level, enhancing innovation and supporting national economic and social goals.

Worldwatch
UK Universities under fire over short-term contracts
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) in Britain has welcomed a report from a Select Committee inquiry into the abusive use of short-term contracts in higher education. The inquiry, by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, found that some 40,000 researchers across the UK are employed on short-term contracts, some for as little as one month. Most damning of the report findings is the conclusion that: 'through poor management and planning, universities have failed their research workforce and the UK’s science base'.
While the blame for the growing crisis is to be shared by a number of key parties, notably the research councils, the report is scathing in its criticism of university managements: “It is hard to identify a single culprit for the continuing mistreatment of our research workforce, but top of the list must be a management culture in some of our research-intensive universities, which is callous and shortsighted.
In the commercial world, businesses have to make predictions about their future income and productivity, and plan accordingly. Universities reserve the right to look no further than the end of the current research grant and place the entire burden of risk onto researchers.”
AUS is looking forward to the Government’s review of the tertiary workforce next year. It is likely the issue of the continued casualisation of the research workforce in New Zealand will be an issue in this forum.

Iran professor persecuted
A court in Iran has sentenced university professor Aghajari making comments during a student gathering to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammad. The local court has further sentenced Aghajari to exile in desert cities of Tabas, Zabol and Gonabad and banned him from teaching for 10 years!!! The death sentence issued against the university him, too, has outraged the university students across Iran, who have been staging strike after strike in protest against the verdict. The majority of Iranian parliament members, too, have seriously condemned the verdict, and Parliament Speaker called the death penalty against him a shame for the country's judiciary system. Also two of Hamedan Constituency MPs presented their letters of resignation to show their objection to the verdict issued by their constituency's court. It is comparable with verdicts issued by Middle Ages courts in Europe. Of course, this event must be considered as a serious war between two dominant parties in Iran. The sentence is backed by religious leader as a private reprisal.

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