AUS Tertiary Update
University staff vote on industrial action
Union negotiators are recommending that, unless significant progress is made in the next two days of bargaining on 14 and 15 June, university staff withhold first-semester examination grades and take national strike action on 20 July. They also recommend that it be followed by rolling stoppages over the following fortnight culminating in a further national strike on 3 August.
The recommendation, for unprecedented industrial action in the sector, follows the rejection by university employers of union proposals for new national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff. The employers say they are unconvinced by union arguments, and made salary offers, at negotiations in Wellington last week, which are conditional on single-employer bargaining.
The salary offers ranged between 2 percent at Massey University and 3.25 percent, as part of a three-year deal, for academic staff at Victoria University. The University of Auckland has already agreed to pay staff an increase of 4.5 percent following a recent Employment Court case which established that they were required to participate in the national bargaining process. The only university yet to make a salary offer is Otago.
Some of the universities are also claiming significant claw-backs to conditions of employment.
The unions have claimed a 30 percent salary increase over the next three years for academic staff, and a 16 percent increase over the same period, along with a proposal to develop a national job evaluation scheme, for general staff. A minimum increase of 10 percent has been sought for this year.
The combined unions’ lead advocate, Jeff Rowe, said that the employers’ salary offers were inadequate and would be unacceptable to union members. “The employers claim that they do not have the ability to pay more in the current funding environment, and that they have made their best offers,” he said. “This is clear evidence that the unions’ claim for national multi-employer collective agreements is the only viable strategy to alleviate the crisis in university salaries, one which government ministers have now openly recognised.”
Mr Rowe said the salary increases which had been claimed were moderate ones and would barely bring New Zealand staff salaries into line with their Australian counterparts. “A 10 percent salary increase this year would mean that lecturers’ salaries would still be similar rates to those paid to kindergarten, primary and secondary school teachers,” he said.
The ballots on industrial action began yesterday and will conclude on Friday 10 June.
The next two days of bargaining will be assisted by an industrial mediator.
More details on the bargaining, including the employers’ salary offers, can be found on the AUS website: http://www.aus.ac.nz/national_bargaining.htm
Tertiary Update this week
1. Waikato faces staff cuts?
2. Funding category review completed
3. Funding priorities to change
4. Student debt figures provoke reaction
5. Thousands protest in Australia
6. Professor deported from Botswana
7. Oxford under challenge as UK’s top university
Waikato faces staff cuts?
Waikato University looks set to cut staff numbers according to a memo to staff in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) which says that budgetary problems, compounded by declining enrolments, are of such a scale that they must be dealt with through significantly reduced expenditure. “In the case of most schools, including FASS, this can only be achieved through a reduction in salary costs,” reads the memo which was sent to staff on Monday this week by Professor Dan Zirker, Dean of the Faculty.
The memo initiates a consultation process aimed at developing a plan for addressing what are described as “further steps” which now must be taken to achieve budgetary requirements for 2005 and beyond.
In a proposed review of general and academic staffing levels in the Faculty, Professor Zirker intends to look at student-to-staff ratios, the cost of the delivery of programmes and departments, the continuing viability of “existing majors”, the ratio of general to academic staff and the rationalisation of administrative procedures.
Association of University Staff Branch Organiser Sandy O’Neil said that University management was consulting the unions and, while they would engage fully in the consultation process, it seemed inevitable that there would be an adverse effect on staff numbers. The review of FASS is one of a number being conducted in the University which has already, or has the potential to, lead to job losses.
Sandy O’Neil said it was ironic that the threat of cuts to salary expenditure came soon after the release of Waikato’s new ten-year Vision and Way Forward document, which says the University will deliver a world-class education and research portfolio, provide a full and dynamic university experience which is distinctive in character and pursue strong international linkages to advance knowledge. “The University proposes enhancing its academic reputation by establishing world-class facilities for teaching and research, and wants to attract top-quality staff and students. Cutting salary costs is counter-productive and will only make it more difficult for the University to achieve its vision,” said Ms O’Neil.
The Dean will meet with staff over the next few weeks and consider submissions on his proposals in July and August. Recommendations will then be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor for a final decision, expected to be taken in late August.
category review completed
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has released the report of the Funding Category Review (FCR) Project Group which has been identifying potential funding anomalies in the student component funding system for tertiary education organisations (TEOs). The report is the result of substantial work by a cross-section of representatives from the tertiary sector as well as personnel from TEC and the Ministry of Education.
The FCR Project Group report says that student component funding is based on classifying individual courses, and in some cases programmes, into one of thirty-nine defined classifications based primarily on the predominant subject matter. However, since the introduction of the current funding regime, it says, the resourcing requirements for providing different types of courses and the demands for subjects and disciplines have changed considerably.
The methodology used in the FCR included a comparison of the revenue and costs for each area under investigation within each TEO against the revenue and costs for the respective TEO as a whole.
Included among the findings are that the weighted average income-to-cost ratio for natural and physical sciences is 9 percent lower than the whole-of-TEO averages, while the differential in optical sciences is 15 percent. It also shows there is evidence that undergraduate course funding cross-subsidises taught postgraduate courses which, in turn, cost 119 percent more to run than undergraduate courses.
Any decision on whether to adjust funding rates will be made by the Government after taking into account the content of the report alongside other policy initiatives. $132.7 million from Budget 2005 and previous budgets has been allocated to increase funding rates in “strategically relevant areas” as part of the FCR. These include natural and physical sciences, trades and technical, agriculture and horticulture, optical science and osteopathy.
The full report and findings can be found at:
priorities to change
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has told tertiary education institutions that those who have not exploited 5.1 community education will not lose any funding as a result of the current tertiary-education-funding reviews. The assurance follows indications from the Minister that announcements will be made soon that will involve shifting funding from low-priority and low-quality courses to areas of high priority and excellence.
Trevor Mallard was also responding to a statement from National Party Education spokesperson, Bill English, who said that polytechnics would be hit hard by the Minister’s move to renege on a three-year deal to “wind down” from the controversial courses. “Mr Mallard’s actions are totally unfair to polytechs that did not exploit the community education loopholes,” he said.
A number of 5.1 community education courses gained notoriety last year, among them Christchurch Polytechnic’s Cool-IT programme, and those described by Mr English as “phantom computer” and “sing-along radio courses.
Trevor Mallard said that the current reviews of tertiary education expenditure are designed to ensure that funding is reinvested in, and shifts to, areas of demonstrated quality. “This is about ensuring taxpayers get value for money, but it is not to save the Government money as the savings will be reinvested in tertiary education,” he said. “It’s ironic that Bill English spent most of last year criticising community education funding, labelling it as a “scandalous waste of taxpayer funds”. Now he wants to keep it. So what does National stand for?”
Student debt figures provoke
More than seven hundred people have student loans of more than $100,000, an increase of 85 percent in a year, according to the March 2005 quarterly report on the Student Loan Scheme. The highest recorded individual debt is $249,747.
The report showed the average loan balance was $14,871 with the median balance $10,206. While 0.15% of the 461,632 borrowers had a balance of more than $100,000, just fewer than 50 percent had a balance of less than $10,000. The report also showed that a total of $6.91 billion is owed, with $538 million of that by people now living overseas.
The latest figures have drawn a mixed response, with the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) quick to point to a 70 percent increase in the number of student loans with loan balances of over $80,000 and a 40 percent increase in balances over $50,000. NZUSA Co-President Andrew Kirton said that, although there had been small improvements in the scheme, Labour could not deny that its policy of high tertiary student fees and severely restricted allowances has failed thousands of students and graduates.”
By contrast, the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Executive Director, Lindsay Taiaroa, said that most of the borrowers with a loan higher than $100,000 would be medical and dental students who would repay their debt relatively quickly because of their higher earning capacity after graduation.
That explanation did not sit well with the New Zealand Medical Association whose President, Ross Boswell, pointed out that the flow-on cost of repaying high student debt may be that general practitioners would be forced to charge patients more.
Minister of Education Trevor Mallard said that, while the loan scheme was not perfect, it worked pretty well. “The Government is committed to making the loan scheme fairer and easing the financial burden on students,” he said. “We have frozen interest on loans while students are studying and we have changed repayment policies so that half of all repayments go towards the principal of the loan. Interest no longer mounts up like it used to.”
Thousands protest in Australia
Thousand of tertiary-education staff marched in Australia yesterday, protesting against proposed Federal Government workplace relations changes for universities. Eight unions supported the national day of protest against the Government’s plan to tie $A1.5 billion in Commonwealth funding to hard-line industrial reforms, including forcing staff on to individual Australian Workplace agreements with inferior conditions and introducing more casual and fixed-term employment arrangements. Rallies attracted more than 2,000 staff in Sydney, 1500 in Melbourne and 800 in Perth, and protest action was also taken at a number of university campuses.
National Tertiary Education Union President Dr Carolyn Allport said that yesterday’s action was the first in a month of activities being planned by the Australian trade union movement against the Howard Government’s workplace relations changes which are due to become law after 1 July.
Professor deported from
An Australian academic, Kenneth Good, has lost his appeal and been deported from Botswana after criticising its Government. Good, for fifteen years a professor in 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 Professor Good a threat to national security and had the right, under immigration law, to expel him from the country.
Professor Good, who is now understood to be in South Africa, said the decision symbolised the death of democracy in the country.
The University is reported to have declined to comment on Professor Good’s deportation, saying it was a matter for the State.
Oxford under challenge as UK’s top
Oxford has held off Cambridge for the fourth successive year at the top of the rankings of the United Kingdom’s best universities, according to the latest Times Higher rankings. It says that Oxford’s spending power gives it the edge in the league table, but Cambridge holds a clear intellectual lead, coming top in twenty-five of the individual subject tables compared with Oxford’s ten. Unlike Oxford, Cambridge also ranks in the Top Ten for overall teaching quality, a listing led by Dundee and York.
Despite narrowing Oxford’s lead this year, Cambridge loses out principally in the calculation of spending on facilities and student services. More of Oxford’s money goes through the central University than at Cambridge, where colleges have a bigger share of the spending.
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