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University negotiations begin


University negotiations begin

University unions and employers will meet in Wellington on Monday and Tuesday (6 & 7 October) this week to commence collective bargaining for the university sector.

The unions are seeking new national collective employment agreements for academic and general (non-academic) staff, as part of an effort to ensure the long term sustainability of high-quality university education in New Zealand. The new agreements will replace 13 current collective agreements negotiated separately at each of the universities.

Central to negotiation is a claim for a salary increase of 10% per annum over the next three years for academic staff and 10% in 2004 for general staff plus increases in job evaluation alignments to the higher quartiles of the salary market.

The unions will also be seeking to increase staff involvement in strategic decision making within universities and measures to ensure protection against increasing workloads.

Association of University Staff National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that staff have been caught in a pincer between eroding levels of funding and constraints on fees which has led to low salaries, increased workloads and administration, and a deteriorating infrastructure. "During the last decade most universities have been constantly restructured resulting, almost without exception, in the loss of frontline staff. Morale is at an all-time low," he said

Dr Rosenberg said that vice-chancellors and university councils had lacked the courage or the collective will, particularly through the 1990s, to seriously challenge government on funding. He said that unless the universities and unions break through funding barriers, bargaining would continue to have limited outcomes and would not deliver the increases needed to restore salary levels to acceptable levels nor would they be sufficient to maintain the quality and reputation of our academic programmes.

Dr Rosenberg said this was no longer acceptable to staff and that national bargaining would provide a means by which all parties, including government, could work together to address the issues of funding, salaries and quality.

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