AUS Tertiary Update
Mediation scheduled over Auckland’s behaviour in
University of Auckland management and Association of University Staff (AUS) representatives will head to mediation tomorrow after the University failed to properly engage in the bargaining process between university unions and employers. AUS and other unions are seeking new national multi-employer collective employment agreements for the university sector. University of Auckland representatives attended the two days of negotiations which were held in Christchurch this week, but on the basis that they would only “sit and listen” to the unions’ claims, so as “not to inconvenience the parties”.
Auckland’s failure to engage arose after the unions rejected a pre-condition of bargaining from the University: that if it did not freely agree to a multi-employer agreement, the parties would then agree to revert to single employer bargaining. Auckland also proposed that, where some or all of the employer parties agreed to “park” the unions’ claim for multi-employer agreements, they would continue to bargain, but on the basis that discussions would be held physically separately from the other university employers, and that any information shared would be strictly confidential.
Earlier, the Employment Court had ruled that the University must engage in the bargaining process initiated by AUS and the other unions, but stopped short of compelling the University to bargain, saying it was too early to issue a compliance order.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said that, despite the Employment Court’s decision, University management continued to frustrate the process. “Agreement to Auckland’s pre-condition for bargaining would have effectively negated the Court’s ruling and allowed Auckland to disengage from the process, simply because the Vice-Chancellor didn’t want to be involved,” she said. “It would also have prevented staff from taking industrial action to support multi-employer bargaining involving Auckland.”
Helen Kelly said that AUS is now considering having the matter referred back to the Employment Court to seek a compliance order against the University.
Meanwhile, the parties will resume the national negotiations with two further days scheduled in Wellington on 25 and 26 May. It is expected that by then salary offers will have been received and that there will be further responses on whether individual universities will freely enter the proposed national agreements. The unions will also respond to the employers’ claims.
Meetings of union members in the seven universities will be held in June to discuss the employers’ positions.
Further information on bargaining and the Auckland dispute can be found on the AUS website:
Tertiary Update this week
1. Cost of tertiary education falls on grandparents?
2. Wananga rejects move to appoint commissioner
3. Strike action averted at Christchurch PTE
4. Interim Chair appointed to NZQA
5. UK pay offer rejected
6. Strike, academic boycott at LMU
7. Botswana professor goes on trial
tertiary education falls on grandparents?
The Minister of Education, Trevor, Mallard, told Parliament on Tuesday that one of the potential benefits of a proposed tertiary education savings scheme would be that grandparents will have an opportunity to put something towards their grandkids tertiary education. His statement followed an invitation from the Government for expressions of interest from commercial organisations interested in providing a scheme based around individualised savings accounts from which withdrawals could only be made for tertiary education costs. Individuals with such accounts would only be able to access student loans once they had withdrawn funds from their tertiary education savings account.
The Government’s move has drawn widespread criticism from students, staff and groups from across the political spectrum. Only the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee appears to support the proposal, saying the reality is that students and their families will have to continue to share some of the costs of tertiary education.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said the proposed savings scheme would be regressive and serve to strengthen the view that tertiary education is a private benefit which should be increasingly funded through individual contribution. “It would not only favour those who can afford to save, but also would discriminate against low-income families and groups such as women who take time out from paid employment to meet family responsibilities,” she said. “It erodes the notion that tertiary education is a public good.”
“The introduction of individualised savings to fund tertiary education would expose New Zealand to the risk of developing a two-tier tertiary education system: one for those who are able to save privately and another, inferior one, for those dependent on an under-funded public system,” Ms Kelly said.
According to Ms Kelly, the individual savings scheme would disguise the effects of the controversial student loan scheme, but without reducing the burden on individuals of paying for their tertiary education. “Adequate resourcing is a state responsibility and government’s priority should be to properly fund tertiary education, she said.”
Helen Kelly said it appeared to be pre-determined that the Government would proceed with the scheme since expressions of interest had been called for before there had been any consultation within the sector about its desirability.
The Government is expected to make a decision on whether to proceed with such a scheme by August.
Details of the proposed scheme and reaction can by found at http://www.scoop.co.nz/news/education.html
move to appoint commissioner
Te Wananga o Aotearoa again appears poised to test the will of the Government following a decision by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, to dissolve its Council and appoint a commissioner to administer the embattled institution. Earlier in the week, Trevor Mallard announced that the Government was stepping in because the Wananga was on the “brink of insolvency” and unable to meet its commitments over the next fortnight, including paying wages and creditors.
As well moving to dissolve its Council, Cabinet has approved a short-term loan of $20 million to allow the Wananga to meet immediate cash-flow costs. Trevor Mallard said that the loan was initiated following an investigation by the Crown Manager, Brian Roche, which revealed that the financial position of the Wananga was worse than initially thought.
Trevor Mallard said that advice from the Crown Manager indicated that the financial situation at the Wananga was so precarious that he was obliged to take all action available to him under the Education Act for the sake of the students, staff and creditors. “To not do anything would be irresponsible,” he said.
“The role of a commissioner would be to deliver the overall governance capability required to assist the Crown Manager, staff and stakeholders to rebuild the institution,” Trevor Mallard said. “If I decide to proceed with this appointment, I also intend to appoint an advisory group who would work alongside the commissioner.”
In a written statement from the Wananga, Council Chair Craig Coxhead said that prior to dissolving the Council and appointing a commissioner, the Minister must consult with the Council in two successive stages. “The first response to the Minister must be received by him on 14 May,” he said. “There is then a further 21 days in which the Council can make submissions to the Minister prior to a final decision by him.”
Mr Coxhead said the Council resolved on Tuesday night to set out its views on why the Council should continue in its present form and the process of appointing a commissioner should be halted. “The Council acknowledges short-term financial pressures but believes that, with goodwill from all parties, they are resolvable under the present governance arrangements,” he said.
Strike action averted at Christchurch
Indefinite strike action by union members at the Design and Arts College, a private training establishment in Christchurch, has been averted by an agreement between the parties to resume bargaining and engage in mediation. Academic and general staff at the College took two half-day’s of strike action more than a week ago, and began indefinite strike action on Tuesday morning this week.
Talks, in which the union claimed a 5 percent salary increase, broke down after staff unanimously rejected an offer of a 2 percent increase. Association of Staff in Tertiary Education National President, Lloyd Woods, said the offer was unacceptable and failed to recognise either the increased productivity of staff or the increased cost of living. “Accepting the offer would have meant a further erosion of salaries against the accepted standards in the sector,” he said.
The agreement by the College management to resume bargaining came only hours before striking staff were due to start picketing, and has resulted in staff returning to work.
Interim Chair appointed to NZQA
An interim Chair has been appointed to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority following the resignation of Graeme Fraser last week in the wake of a damning report into the organisation’s handling of 2004 scholarship examinations. Catherine Gibson, a current Board member, has been appointed interim Chair for the next three months.
Also under increasing pressure to resign is NZQA Chief Executive Karen Van Rooyen who has been blamed for the deficiency in the implementation of the new National Certificate in Educational Achievement and the scholarship debacle.
Associate Minister of Education David Benson-Pope is reported to have described Mr Fraser’s resignation as the “honourable course of action”, and to have said that he expected the Board to take further action over NZQA management’s role. He declined to express confidence in Ms Van Rooyen.
UK pay offer rejected
Leaders of three university unions in the United Kingdom have rejected a pay offer of 5 percent over two years by their employers in negotiations this week. The University and College Lecturers' Union (NATFHE), the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the Educational Institute of Scotland are seeking an 11.2 percent across-the-board increase to current pay scales reflecting, they say, the need for an increase that takes account of the cost of living and the need to catch up some of the ground lost due to low settlements in recent years.
The unions also sought a minimum hourly rate of £35.34, saying that many hourly lecturers are paid only for lecturing time, not preparation or marking, meaning that an hour’s pay is usually an inadequate reward for several hours of work.
The unions are also concerned that the employers have failed to address equality issues, including the opportunity to undertake work recognised for career advancement and promotion, measures to support working parents and the achievement of effective work-life balance.
In a joint statement, AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt and NATFHE General Secretary Paul Mackney said that the offer failed to address the continuing problem of low pay, and was simply unacceptable. “The unions will work closely together this year to ensure that the employers hear that message loud and clear from across the sector, and we are determined to secure a better deal on behalf of members,” they said.
The pay talks are scheduled to continue until 23 June.
Strike, academic boycott at LMU
Union members at the London Metropolitan University will strike for the whole of next week and will reinstate an academic boycott as they step up protest action in a long-running and increasingly bitter industrial dispute at the institution. It centres on the University’s threat to sack 387 academic staff if they refuse to accept new, inferior employment agreements following the merger of the University of North London and London Guildhall University to create LMU. In April last year, the University told staff they had until 31 August to accept the new agreements or be dismissed.
Since then, low level industrial action, mediation and court intervention have failed to resolve matters, and the strike proposed for next week will coincide with a visit to LMU by the Quality Assurance Agency.
NATFHE General Secretary Paul Mackney said that the strike would be accompanied by the re-imposition of an academic boycott which would include a ban on external examining, peer review, joint research, joint teaching and applying for academic posts. He said there would also be a withdrawal from exam invigilation and a ban on marking.
More information on this dispute can be found at: http://www.natfhe-london.org.uk/
professor goes on trial
A seventy-two-year-old Australian academic went on trial in Botswana this week in a case which is considered to be a test of academic freedom in that country. Professor Kenneth Good, of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana, was detained on the orders of the country’s President in February after it was learned he was to give a seminar critiquing the growing autocracy in that country and criticising the President of the southern African country.
Botswana’s Attorney General told the Court that the President considered Mr Good a threat to national security and has the right, under immigration law, to expel him from the country. Mr Good’s lawyers are arguing that he has not broken any immigration laws and that freedom of speech is protected under Botswana’s Constitution.
Professor Good’s colleagues at the University of Botswana say his deportation is an assault on academic freedom and an affront to the fundamental values of democracy. The Academic and Senior Support Staff Union said the action taken against Professor Good undermined academic integrity, and it vowed to support him to the very end.
The judges are scheduled to give their decision on 31 May.
Additional information from the Chronicle of Higher Education
AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email: firstname.lastname@example.org