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University escalates attack on staff union

University escalates attack on staff union
The University of Auckland has stepped up its attack on the Association of University Staff (AUS), this time by attempting to prevent the union from going about its day-to-day business on campus. The University has implied that it will cut off access to the University’s email system after the AUS wrote to non-union staff at the University encouraging them to join the union.

The AUS has brought legal action against the University after its Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, refused to enter bargaining for national collective employment agreements, and offered non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.

Following a letter from AUS to non-union staff, the University’s head of Human Resources, Kath Clarke, wrote saying that the emailed letter was in breach of the AUS’s duty of good faith towards the University. “We also note that providing access to the University email system is a privilege that has been extended to the AUS to enable you to communicate with your members,” wrote Ms Clarke. “We are thereby writing to seek your undertaking that the AUS will ensure that any further communications issued by it, comply with its duty of good faith. If the AUS continues to act in breach of its duty of good faith, we confirm that this will be treated very seriously by the University.”

AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said the University’s letter clearly threatened that email access would be stopped if the union again wrote to non-union staff at the University. She said it was extraordinary that the University would attempt to restrict freedom of speech and association, particularly given the statutory responsibilities universities have to academic freedom.

“This is unacceptable and intimidatory behaviour from the University towards its staff and the AUS” said Ms Kelly. “We have a lawful right to encourage non-union staff to join the union, and the use of email or of visiting them at their worksite are perfectly acceptable ways of communicating this. Right of access to workplaces is a statutory right for unions provided in the Employment Relations Act, and it is also supported by the International Labour Organisation’s declarations on the freedom of association and the effective recognition of unions.”

“AUS will not be intimidated by threats from the University of Auckland, and we will continue to exercise our lawful right to communicate with union and non-union staff in any manner we believe appropriate,” Ms Kelly said.

Ends

For further information or comment please contact:
Helen Kelly, General Secretary, Association of University Staff (AUS)
Ph (04) 915 6690 (work)
04) 385 3153 (home)
027 436 6308 (mobile)
Email helen.kelly@canterbury.ac.nz

For background information please contact
Marty Braithwaite, Communications Officer, AUS
Ph (04) 915 2680 (work)
027 274 7795 (mobile)
Email marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz

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