AUS Tertiary Update
AUS starts legal action against University of
The Association of University Staff (AUS) is taking legal action against the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, after he failed to show up at a preliminary national employment agreement negotiation meeting in Wellington on Tuesday this week. Stuart McCutcheon told the AUS he will only negotiate single-employer collective agreements at his University, and has offered non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.
The AUS and other unions initiated bargaining earlier in the year for new national collective employment agreements as part of a campaign to address inadequate funding and salaries in the university sector. The unions have claimed a 30 percent salary increase for academic staff and 16 percent plus a national job evaluation scheme for general (non-academic) staff to be implemented over a three year period.
In legal proceedings filed with the Employment Relations Authority yesterday, the AUS has alleged that the Vice-Chancellor has acted unlawfully and is actively undermining bargaining, not just by his refusal to participate in multi-employer negotiations, but also in offering the salary increase to non-union staff on the eve of the union negotiations.
AUS National President Professor Nigel Haworth said that the University had a legal obligation to meet with the unions once multi-employer bargaining had been initiated, and to consider and respond to any proposals submitted by the parties for negotiation. “The University also has a statutory duty to deal with the unions in good faith, and not to do anything with the intention of inducing union members not to be involved in bargaining or not to be covered by a collective agreement,” he said. “In our view, the Vice-Chancellor’s actions were a deliberate attempt to undermine and weaken the national bargaining process.”
The AUS has sought an order requiring the University to participate in the national bargaining process and declaring that the Vice-Chancellor has acted unlawfully. It has also asked for a ruling that, by offering non-union staff the 4.5 percent salary increase just as national bargaining was about to begin, the Vice-Chancellor was unlawfully undermining the bargaining.
AUS lawyer Peter Cranney said that the Employment Relations Authority is likely to take some steps to progress the matter later this week.
Meanwhile, representatives of the other six universities met with union representatives on Tuesday and have agreed to a protocol around which to proceed with national bargaining. Formal negotiations are due to get under way in April.
Tertiary Update this week
1. Auckland staff protest at VC’s actions
2. Wananga enrolments hit
3. NZ student fees lower than Australia
4. Research shows student success linked to support
5. Pets and other dumb animals
6. Unregistered university opens in Fiji
7. Brunel V-C nominated as Britain’s worst boss
8. Academic fights deportation order
staff protest at VC’s actions
University of Auckland staff, furious at their Vice-Chancellor’s refusal to participate in national bargaining, turned out in large numbers on Tuesday to protest at his actions. Hundreds took part in the lunch-time protest action and have promised more to come.
Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, Professor Nigel Haworth said that the refusal of the University of Auckland to enter national multi-employer bargaining compromised the sector's collective ability to resolve the long-standing underfunding of New Zealand universities and the consequent inadequate salary levels.
“The unions also view the 4.5 percent salary offer to non-union staff as clearly a calculated attempt by Stuart McCutcheon to undermine national bargaining,” said Professor Haworth. “It is a direct attack on the choice of the University's staff to belong to and bargain through a union, and is exceptionally poor employment practice. It is also a clear breach of good faith.” He said that the Vice-Chancellor's action was made more questionable given that he had not indicated his intentions in an open and frank discussion about bargaining with AUS officials a week earlier.
“For a state-sector employer, who is also Chair of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors Committee, this is an extraordinary way to respond to his responsibilities,” said Professor Haworth. “His actions are in direct contravention of the Government’s intention of increasing cooperation and collaboration between institutions in the tertiary education sector, its promotion of collective bargaining and its expectations of building good employment relationships.”
Professor Haworth also warned that the actions of the Vice-Chancellor were destined to lead to industrial unrest at Auckland. “The Government has acknowledged that universities have missed out on their share of public funding, and that salaries have suffered as a result. We will not stand back and let Stuart McCutcheon undermine the collective sectoral approach to resolving funding and salary problems,” he said.
University of Auckland staff will hold stopwork meetings in early April to consider further protest action.
Wananga enrolments hit
Enrolments at Te Wananga o Aotearoa are down by 30 percent, with much of the blame attributable to the allegations made against it in Parliament, according to Susan Cullen, daughter of the Wananga’s Chief Executive Rongo Wetere. She said that, while student numbers were down nationally by 15 percent overall, a further 15 percent of the Wananga’s losses was directly related to recent criticism. She said the loss equates to about 10,000 students, and would put the jobs of staff at risk.
Persistent allegations, which include nepotism, poor financial management, dubious course quality and unorthodox enrolment practices, have resulted in an investigation by the Auditor-General and the appointment of a Crown Manager to the Wananga.
Susan Cullen, who has been named in some of the allegations, told NZPA she is confident that her family and the Wananga would be cleared following the investigation, but said that someone should be held responsible for the losses the Wananga and the Wetere family had suffered. “We have done nothing corrupt, there are no backhanders, there is no nepotism … we have been vetted and reviewed and audited many times and everything is up front,” she said.
NZ student fees lower than
Trevor Mallard does not recognise the detrimental reality of high tuition fees for New Zealand’s tertiary education students, according to the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA). The comment follows a statement from the Minister of Education that student tuition fees in this country are one-third lower than in Australia.
Trevor Mallard said that, between 2001 and 2003, New Zealand university tuition fees decreased by 3.0 percent from $3,852 to $3,736, while those in Australia increased by 6.0 percent from $NZ4711 to $NZ4994.
“The Government is also investing around $223 million over the next four years to extend access to the Student Allowance Scheme,” Trevor Mallard said. “This is designed to benefit an extra 36,000 students, including 12,000 who will now be eligible for a full allowance. This increased allowance is expected to reduce the amount of the Student Loan Scheme by nearly $20 million per year.”
NZUSA Co-President Andrew Kirton said that Trevor Mallard had used 2003 figures which failed to take into account the fee increases in 2004 and 2005. “The NZUSA Income and Expenditure Survey (2004) revealed that between 2001 and 2004 there was a 34 percent increase in average university fees from $4,217 to $5,644,” he said. “Whether fees are $4,000 or $5,000 per year is not the point. These fees are unreasonably high and students are being forced into unnecessarily large amounts of debt to pay for them.”
Research shows student success linked to
Latest research released by the Ministry of Education shows that student success is linked to tertiary support services and academic staff development. The report, Impact of Student Support Services and Academic Development Programmes on Student Outcomes in Undergraduate Tertiary Study: A Synthesis of the Research, shows that tertiary institutions can do a lot to ensure their students achieve success within the tertiary education system.
The report notes that students are more likely to succeed when they have access to pre-enrolment advice, academic counselling, opportunities to develop social networks, manageable workloads and good-quality teaching. Other contributors to student success include having access to orientation and induction programmes, peer-tutoring and welcoming and efficient institutional behaviours, environments and processes. An absence of discrimination was also important in helping students feel valued, fairly treated and safe.
Tertiary institutions are encouraged to use their academic staff development units as centres for research about teaching and learning as well as centres for training and development.
The report can be found on the Ministry of Education website: www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/researchrecord
Pets and other dumb
National’s Education spokesperson Bill English says that Labour’s identification of “homeopathy for pets” as a strategic priority for tertiary education funding is further evidence of a botched tertiary education strategy. In Parliament this week, Mr English took the opportunity to ridicule a number of publicly-funded courses including Animal Homeopathy, Nail Technology, the Art of Health (which he described as including “understanding … the effect of colour on the human soul”) and Metamorphosis and Transition, something to “be explored through transition in colour and movement as well as through Myth, Fairy Tale or poetry”.
Mr English continued, saying he does not believe the homeopathic needs of cats, dogs and budgies is an issue of national educational importance. “How could he explain his decision”, Mr English asked of the Minister of Education, “to fund courses on homeopathy for pets and fixing people by means of poetry?”
Quick off the mark, Trevor Mallard retorted: “If one is worried about pets and other dumb animals, one just needs to look at the Opposition.”
It seems, however, that Mr English may have been wide of the mark in his criticism. The Acting Chair of the Tertiary Education Commission, Kaye Turner, told NZPA that the homeopathy course in question has underpinned Fonterra’s push to produce organic milk from animals which cannot be given chemical pharmaceuticals without losing their organic certification. She added that New Zealand’s growing organic-export industry is dependent on alternative therapies, and this was a big factor behind the approval of the homeopathy (animal health) course at the Bay of Plenty College of Homeopathy.
Unregistered university opens in Fiji
Classes began at the University of Fiji in Lautoka this week, despite a dispute in which the Government says the institution is not registered with the Ministry of Education. The University’s Acting Chief Executive, Dr Ganesh Chand, says the University is registered under the Companies Act because university accreditation is not required under the country’s Education Act.
Executives of the new University have said that they want to meet the Minister of Education, Ro Teimumu, to seek her support after she had earlier said the University would not receive endorsement unless the Government was satisfactorily briefed on its powers and duties.
V-C nominated as Britain’s worst boss
Brunel University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Schwartz has been nominated as Britain’s worst boss for a new Channel 4 television programme looking for budding David Brents, of The Office fame. Described by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) as being “industrial-relations challenged”, Professor Schwartz has managed to provoke a vote of no-confidence in his management from staff. It mirrored a similar no-confidence vote delivered by staff and students at Murdoch University in Australia, his last university post.
AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt said that, while the Channel 4 programme would be light-hearted, the reality for union members at Brunel was no laughing matter. “Brunel is making sixty staff redundant, with thirty compulsory redundancies, an almost unheard of event in a British university,” she said. Senior management has refused to meet with the union, leading to threats by the AUT that it will issue injunction proceedings if the University presses ahead with the redundancies.
Academic fights deportation
Lawyers representing Kenneth Good, the Australian academic facing expulsion from Botswana after delivering a paper questioning its reputation as a democracy, have begun the process of challenging a Presidential decree in the courts.
Papers were filed on Monday in a defence that will test the constitutional right of President Festus Mogae to declare Professor Good a prohibited immigrant. Last month, Professor Good, who has worked in Botswana for seventeen years, was served with the Presidential order giving him forty-eight hours to leave the country. He was due to give a paper at his university entitled “Presidential succession in Botswana: No model for Africa” which, amongst other things, questions the process of presidential succession.
The case is expected to begin in April.
AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz