AUS Tertiary Update
Polytechnic staff poised to
Staff at six polytechnics, including one of the country’s largest institutes of technology, have voted to take strike action in the wake of a failure to conclude negotiations for a multi-employer collective agreement in the sector. The strike ballot, which closed last night, gave the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) an overwhelming mandate to call the strike action.
ASTE National President Lloyd Woods said that polytechnic staff felt they had no other choice but to take this decision after 16 days of negotiation resulted in pay offers ranging from zero to 2.5%, contingent on concessions on a number of existing conditions. He said the employers had not made any commitment to backdating any eventual pay settlement, even though a number of the employment agreements had expired in March.
Mr. Woods said that a number of the employers wanted to increase staff workloads by increasing their teaching contact hours. He described this as ‘completely unacceptable’. “These employers seem to have the view that staff have to pay for a multi-employer agreement by accepting concessions on conditions of employment that would leave them worse off than staff at other polytechnics across the country,” he said. “They are the very conditions that enable academic staff to provide quality education of the kind this country needs”.
Mr Woods said that multi-employer bargaining was consistent with government policy which promotes collaboration in the tertiary sector and encouraged more efficient methods of bargaining. “Bargaining on a site-by-site basis is a wasteful use of resources,” he said.
ASTE has agreed to a request from the employers to go into mediation on Friday in an attempt to resolve the impasse. “We will enter mediation in a genuine attempt to resolve this problem, but if agreement is not reached at mediation our national executive has the mandate to proceed with strike action,” said Mr. Woods.
Staff at UNITEC, Waikato Institute of Technology, Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, Northand Polytechnic, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the Whitireia Community Polytechnic will be affected.
Also in Tertiary
Update this week
1. Trespass order withdrawn
2. MPs pay hike confirms case for university staff
3. Carich woes continue
4. New NZQA board members announced
5. Wellington College exempted from fees maxima
6. Berkeley lecturer detained as a spy in Iran
7. UK pay talks resume
Massey University has rescinded a trespass order made against New Zealand University Students’ Association co-president Fleur Fitzsimons after it was reported in Tertiary Update last week. The order was served on Ms Fitzsimons by police following the arrest of 12 students protesting against increases in student tuition fees at Massey.
Massey University vice-chancellor Professor Judith Kinnear says that on being advised a trespass order had been issued against Ms Fitzsimons she instructed that it be rescinded. She said that by the time the university initially advised the police that it did not wish to pursue the trespass order it had already been served.
Ms Fitzsimons said that while she had not yet been told by the University that the order was withdrawn, she was pleased with the outcome. “There was no logical reason for it to be issued in the first place,” she said. “It was completely unnecessary”.
The vice-chancellor also said that the university had sought diversion and leniency in respect of the trespass charges laid by the police against the 12 students arrested. She noted that the Massey University Students’ Association had undertaken to pay for damage caused during the protest.
Massey management and students are setting up a working group to consider the development of a policy on student protests. “We want to ensure that in the future there is certainty about the way the university handles any protest, so that any confusion can be avoided,” said Massey University Students’ Association President, Andrea Grant.
MPs pay hike confirms
case for university staff
The pay hike for members of parliament, announced last week, confirms the need for salaries in the university sector to lift substantially according to the National President of the Association of University Staff, Dr Bill Rosenberg.
Dr Rosenberg said that prior to 1988, backbench members of parliament and university senior lecturers had the same salaries, both set by Higher Salaries Commission. The latest increase now gives those MPs a margin of $36,671, or 50%, over senior lecturers.
“This further confirms that New Zealand university salaries are languishing behind both international and relevant domestic comparators,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “It also seems extraordinary that government ministers, a number of whom have been university staff, have accepted their increased salaries without question, yet refuse to adequately address unsatisfactory levels of university funding. This is particularly galling as they know that salary increases in the university sector are reliant on increased funding”.
Dr Rosenberg said that as recently as last Friday, Associate Education Minister (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, stated that ‘tertiary education is a key’ to achieving his government’s vision for New Zealand as a ‘knowledge society’. Mr. Maharey said that the “knowledge society is far more than a quick cliché – it’s an imperative”.
“How can University staff be expected to achieve this ‘imperative’ when funding has fallen by one third since 1991?” asked Dr Rosenberg.
University staff have claimed an increase of 10% per annum over the next three years for academic staff salaries, and 10% in 2004 for general staff in addition to increases in job evaluation alignments to the higher quartiles of the salary market.
Negotiations resumed in Wellington today.
Carich woes continue
Attempts to sell the failed private training establishment, Carich, as a single entity have failed and it appears likely the assets of the company will be now be sold or auctioned in parts. It ends any real prospect of the enterprise continuing. Carich Training, which had eight campuses throughout the country, went into receivership last week with debts of about $5 million.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) advised on Tuesday that it now has access to records and will be able to advise students by the end of the week about alternative courses that will enable them to complete qualifications started at Carich. NZQA is expecting to organize a series of meetings, starting in Christchurch and Hamiltion, to advise students.
The Authority also said it is making arrangements for students to gain access to their property, including computer files held on the Carich IT systems.
Carich students have been advised to wait for guidance from NZQA before enrolling in other courses.
NZQA board members announced
Education Minister Trevor Mallard has appointed four new members to the board of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The new members are: Tracey Bridges, a partner in public relations firm Senate Communications; Peter Chrisp, chief executive of Norske-Skog Tasman Ltd; Angela Foulkes, former secretary of the Council of Trade Unions and now an independent consultant; and Graeme McNally, dean of the Faculty of Commerce, University of Canterbury and a partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
All new members have been appointed for a four-year term.
Wellington College exempted from fees maxima
The Wellington College of Education has been allowed by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to lift tuition fees by up to 10% for 2004. Along with the Otago College of Education, Wellington had applied to lift its fees above the 5% permitted by the fees maxima policy on grounds which included that their fees were significantly behind those of other colleges of education.
The application by the Otago College of Education is expected to be considered and a decision made when the Commission meets later this week.
Meanwhile the Otago University Students Association has launched a petition against fee increases, as the university prepares to consider its fee levels. The university, which has not announced a date for fee setting, is the only university yet to set its fees.
Berkeley lecturer detained as a spy in Iran
An Iranian-American lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley is being detained in Iran on charges of espionage. Dariush Zahedi, an adjunct faculty member in the political-science department, was arrested in Tehran in late July during a trip to visit relatives. Mr. Zahedi is a naturalized American and a former Iranian citizen, and has been a part-time lecturer in political science at Berkeley for three years, teaching courses in Middle East studies.
The Iranian government isn't giving any basis for the arrest, nor have they brought any official charges against him.
“Like all academics, he has been critical of the Iranian government, along with the reformists and their inability to deliver, but that's academic and not political,” said Hooshang Amirahmadi, a professor of international development at Rutgers University at Camden and president of the American-Iranian Council. “He is not a member of any political group, and there is nothing in his academic publications that could make the Iranian government suspicious”.
University officials are concerned about Mr. Zahedi's detention, although they declined to disclose what they are doing to win his freedom. A spokesperson for the university said that the chancellor was well informed of the situation and that the university would seek to make use of contacts in Iran help the situation.
UK pay talks
Negotiations between higher education unions and employers in the United Kingdom resumed on Tuesday this week following balloting on strike action over failed pay talks.
The unions had previously rejected a new pay offer which would have given increase of up to 7.6% over two years. The unions have argued that salaries are 28% behind comparable pay rates and had claimed an increase of 14% over the next three years in addition to further increases linked to average UK salary settlements.
A vote by the Leeds University senate has backed the unions’ position, calling on officers of the university to “use all their influence” to prevent “the possible breakdown of national pay bargaining arrangements for academic and academic-related staff”.
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