University talks founder
The likelihood of university unions and employers collaborating on approaches to deal with funding and salary woes in the university sector seems remote after employers stipulated that such an approach could proceed only if unions dropped claims for national collective employment agreements.
University employers have walked away from a proposal for an independently researched ‘white paper’ on university funding and salaries, to form the basis of a joint employer/union approach to government, after saying that such a project was contingent on enterprise (site) bargaining. They said that the ‘white paper would not proceed’ if the unions’ claim for national agreements remained.
The unions had earlier initiated bargaining for two national collective employment agreements across the sector with salary increases of 10% for next year, based on studies of local and international relativities.
Negotiations, which resumed in Hamilton this week, explored the possibility of the interim short-term rollover of current enterprise agreements to allow for the ‘white paper’ to be developed, however they have been adjourned after the unions rejected the employers’ terms for the rollover, which included salary offers of between less than 2.0% and 2.8%.
Union advocate Jeff Rowe said that meetings of union members last week had shown continued strong support for national bargaining, and impatience with the employers’ refusal to make realistic salary offers and to accept national bargaining. Union members had authorised the bargaining team to explore the possibility of interim site settlements to allow the ‘white paper’ proposal to be developed, but the present salary offers were unacceptably low and showed no sign of any commitment by the employers to resolving long-term salary woes in the sector.
Mr. Rowe said there was no logical reason that the development of a ‘white paper’ was reliant on enterprise bargaining “and, in fact, the employers have acknowledged that it is only because we are bargaining nationally that the suggestion has even been explored”. He said that the unions remained open to working on a collaborative basis on this matter. “We see national bargaining as assisting, not impeding, this process,” he said. “What is apparent, however, is that the employers are using this as a lever to try to delay national bargaining”.
Mr. Rowe said that the salary increases which had been on offer were lower than average wage and salary settlements across New Zealand and did nothing towards resolving long-accepted funding and salary problems within New Zealand universities.
Negotiations are scheduled to resume in Wellington on 11 February 2004.
For further comment please contact:
Jeff Rowe, Advocate, Association of University Staff (AUS)
Ph (04) 915 6692 (work) (04) 380 9212 (home) 021 375 670 (mobile)