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Auckland University dispute heads to Court

The Employment Relations Authority has referred a dispute between the Association of University Staff (AUS) and the University of Auckland to the Employment Court after mediation last week failed to resolve the issues between the parties.

The AUS commenced legal action against the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, after he refused to meet with unions and other university employers for preliminary national employment agreement negotiation discussions. Stuart McCutcheon told the AUS he will only negotiate single-employer collective agreements at his University, meanwhile he is giving non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.

In legal proceedings, the AUS has alleged that the Vice-Chancellor’s refusal to participate in multi-employer is in breach of the obligations set out in the Employment Relations Act to:
• Use his best endeavours to enter into an arrangement with the AUS, the other unions representing university staff and the other six university employers to set out a process for bargaining.
• Meet with the unions for the purposes of bargaining.
• Consider and respond to proposals made by the unions.
• Be active and constructive in maintaining a productive employment relationship with the other university employers.

The AUS has also alleged that the Vice-Chancellor has undermined the bargaining process by:
• Contravening the Employment Relations Act by communicating directly with union members about bargaining.
• Placing pressure on the AUS not to participate in or pursue multi-employer bargaining.
• Undermining the authority of the AUS in bargaining.

AUS also says that the Vice-Chancellor is discriminating against union members by giving non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase, whereas union members will not receive a salary increase unless they abandon multi-employer bargaining and participate in single-employer bargaining.

The AUS is seeking:
• An order requiring the Vice-Chancellor to participate in the multi-employer bargaining.
• A declaration that the Vice-Chancellor has acted unlawfully by refusing to participate in multi-employer bargaining.
• A declaration that the Vice-Chancellor has unlawfully undermined the bargaining by refusing to bargain, and by making an offer to increase the salaries of non-union staff.

AUS has sought an urgent hearing in the Employment Court, and is now awaiting a hearing date.

AUS National President Professor Nigel Haworth said that the unions had 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. “Union members have endorsed a 30 percent salary increase for academic staff and 16 percent plus a national job evaluation scheme for general (non-academic) staff, all to be implemented over a three year period,” he said. “The AUS is committed to building a strong alliance across all parties in the university sector in support of adequate salary levels.”

The AUS and other university unions represent around 60 percent of the University’s core staff.

Ends

For further information or comment please contact
Professor Nigel Haworth, AUS National President
Phone (09) 373 7599, extension 85235 (work) (09) 376 6359 (home)
Mobile 021 637 599
Email president@aus.ac.nz or n.haworth@auckland.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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