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Staff union brings legal action

17 March 2005

Staff union brings legal action against University of Auckland

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 endorsed 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.

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 drafted a protocol around which to proceed with national bargaining. Formal negotiations are due to get under way in April.


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