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University attempts to induce staff to leave union

21 March 2005

University attempts to induce staff to leave union

The Association of University Staff (AUS) today accused the University of Auckland of attempting to induce its members into leaving the union in a dispute over the bargaining of new national collective employment agreements for university staff.

In a move described by AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly as both outrageous and provocative, the University has said it would be happy to talk to union members about their pay if they were to leave the union.

It comes as a dispute between the AUS and University over bargaining deepens. Last week, the AUS instigated legal action against the University after its Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, refused to enter bargaining for national collective employment agreements, and then offered non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.

In a letter to the AUS, the University’s Human Resources Manager, Kath Clarke, said that if it receives any enquiries from staff who may want to leave to become eligible for the non-union pay increase, it would first recommend they talk to the union. If, however, the staff member left the union, they would then be happy to talk to them about their pay.

Helen Kelly said that the message from the University is clear; that it would give the 4.5 percent pay increase to anyone who resigned from the union. “The timing of the pay offer to non-union staff, on the eve on national negotiations in which the University has refused to participate, can only be viewed as a deliberate attempt to undermine the proposed national collective agreements and the national bargaining itself,” she said.

“Not only have non-union staff been offered a pay increase, but the University has blatantly denied the right of union members to bargain in the manner in which they initiated. It is a serious attack on our organisation and is intended to weaken the union by inducing members to leave.”

Ms Kelly said that the duty of good faith, prescribed in the Employment Relations Act, meant that the parties must not undermine, or do anything that is likely to undermine, the bargaining, nor to do anything that would exert undue influence, either directly or indirectly, on a person with the intention of inducing a person to leave or not to become a member of a union.

“It is our view that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland has set out, in a calculated fashion, to induce AUS members to leave the union,” she said. “It is clearly unlawful and made the more serious by the fact that this is a state sector employer with a statutory obligation to be a good employer.”

An application to have this matter referred directly to the Employment Court is currently being considered by the Employment Relations Authority.


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