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Strike action likely to affect Otago orientation

Strike action likely to affect Otago student orientation activities

Staff at the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) are to embark on industrial action following the breakdown of collective employment agreement negotiations with their student employers.

OUSA is currently offering staff a 3.5% pay increase for the 2 years, from January 2004 to January 2006, with a further cost of living increase from January 2006. The Association of University Staff (AUS), which represents staff members, says the offer fails to adequately compensate for increases in the cost of living over the period, let alone recognise the significantly increased workloads faced by staff.

The AUS is claiming a 3.5% pay increase from January 2004, with a further 3.2% from January 2005.

"OUSA staff are being asked to accept another two years of sub-inflation pay increases, after already having received an increase in 2003 which was lower than the rate of inflation," said Mr Scott. "Adding insult to injury is that the inadequate pay offer comes at a time when staff members' workloads have grown in tandem with burgeoning student enrolments at the University."

Mr Scott said union members noted that while OUSA has been calling on the Government to ensure that student allowances keep pace with the rising cost of living, it was not prepared to apply the same principle to its own staff.

Mr Scott said that many OUSA staff themselves are repaying student loans, as well as facing increasing mortgages, childcare, and other living expenses.

AUS members believe that if OUSA is genuinely concerned about the rising cost of living and the effects of the student loan scheme, it would set an example by treating its own employees fairly. "They should practice what they preach," said Mr Scott.

The parties attended mediation last Thursday in an attempt to avert strike action during Orientation, the Association's busiest time of the year. Mr Scott said while some mediation discussions had been positive, not enough had changed to avert the planned industrial action by union members. Provision of OUSA services for Summer School students may also be affected.

A programme of industrial action, including strike action, begins next week.


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