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National university bargaining deferred

National university bargaining deferred

Bargaining for new national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff in New Zealand's seven traditional universities has been deferred for the remainder of the year. This follows progress in national bargaining, most notably an agreement by university employers to engage in a working party with the unions to look at the form of bargaining which would be most productive in the sector. This includes looking at the benefits of multi-employer and multi-union employment agreements.

The employers have also agreed to work with the unions on a "white paper" on funding and salaries which would form the basis of lobbying Government, and have agreed on a joint union and employer request for tripartite meetings with Government to identify and address issues facing the sector.

The change came during last-minute negotiations called in an attempt to avert national strike action, scheduled to take place throughout May.

Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, Association of University Staff General Secretary Helen Kelly said the deferral did not signal any lessening of commitment to national bargaining and she expected new national negotiations to begin early next year.

"The decision to revert to enterprise agreements in this bargaining round came only after Massey and Canterbury Universities gave a clear indication that they believed there may be benefit in national collective agreements," she said. "That is a significant change and one we have acknowledged by deferring national bargaining this year"

Ms Kelly said the change was important given the employers' refusal, to that point, to engage with each other or the unions on a collective and cooperative basis. "It certainly gives us a practical base from which to address funding and salary issues in a productive manner," she said.

While national bargaining has been deferred, settlement of local agreements will now depend on acceptable pay offers being made.

Union members at Auckland, Waikato, Victoria (academic only), Lincoln, and Canterbury will consider the pay offers made to them over the next fortnight. Those at Massey and Otago have rejected their salary offers and will determine whether to seek further negotiations with their employers or to take industrial action.

Current salary offers are:

Auckland: 3.5% for academic and general staff

Waikato:3% for academic and general staff

Massey: 3% for academic staff. General staff have been offered 2.8% with a further 0.2% from 1 January 2005

Victoria: 4% for academic staff and 2.2% for general staff

Canterbury:3.5% for academic and general staff

Lincoln: 2.6% for academic and general staff

Otago:3.5% for academic staff and 2.5% for general staff (from 1 May)

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