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Auckland faces prolonged strike action

7 April 2005

University of Auckland faces prolonged strike action

The University of Auckland faces prolonged industrial action after union members voted by an overwhelming margin to take strike action in protest at their Vice-Chancellor’s refusal to participate in the negotiation of national collective employment agreements and his giving non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.

In a secret ballot held at a stopwork meeting this morning, almost 500 union members voted by a margin of over 97 percent to take industrial action at the University, starting next Thursday with a half-day strike. That will be followed by a series of two-hour strikes over the following weeks, following which union members will meet again, on 12 May, to consider further action.

Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said the strength of the vote, and the commitment to sustained industrial action, was the most decisive statement that the University’s staff could make to their Vice-Chancellor. “It shows unmistakably that they are outraged by his behaviour, and will not tolerate his calculated attempts to scuttle the effort being undertaken by the unions to seriously resolve the long-standing funding and salary issues which threaten to compromise the university sector.”

Ms Kelly said the dispute could be easily resolved if Vice-Chancellor now accepted his legal obligations and participated in the national bargaining process.

Meanwhile, the Employment Court has agreed to hear with urgency the case being brought by the AUS against the Vice-Chancellor, firstly with evidence to be heard next Tuesday and Wednesday, and then with closing submissions to follow in the first week of May. The case will be heard before a panel of three judges.

In the legal proceedings filed earlier in the Employment Relations Authority, the AUS has alleged that the Vice-Chancellor has acted unlawfully and is undermining bargaining, not just by his refusal to participate in multi-university negotiations, but also by offering the salary increase to non-union staff on the eve of the negotiations. It is also claiming that the move to give non-union staff the 4.5 percent salary increase is discriminatory.

Formal negotiations between the university unions and the other six universities are scheduled to get under way on 5 May, with six days set aside during the month for negotiation.

ENDS

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