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Universities to face prolonged disruption

Universities face prolonged strike action, and students face disruption to the release of their examination results if differences between university unions and employers over the negotiation of new national multi-employer collective agreements are not resolved in the next few weeks.

It is the first time ever that industrial action has threatened to close universities across the entire country.

More than 90 percent of staff who participated in a ballot, which closed today, voted in favour of industrial action, after employers at seven universities refused to agree to new multi-employer agreements, and offered salary increases of between 2 percent (at Massey) and 4.5 percent (at Auckland) on a single-employer basis.

Two days of national strike action will occur on 20 July and 4 August, with rolling stoppages scheduled to take place in the intervening period. First semester examination results will be withheld indefinitely.

The combined unions’ spokesperson, Helen Kelly, said that today’s vote was an unprecedented rejection of the employers’ position. “Unless they take a fundamentally different stance, serious disruption will occur,” she said.

Helen Kelly said the result showed clearly that university staff are no longer prepared to tolerate their employers’ unwillingness to seriously address low salaries and inadequate funding in the sector. “The current salary offers are amongst the lowest in the current wage round, and show that university employers are not prepared to work in a collective and collaborative manner to address what are long-recognised funding and salary problems,” she said. “Government and the employers both accept the extent of these problems, and so it seems extraordinary to us that they will not move towards a realistic solution.”

Ms Kelly called on the employers to work with the unions and the Government to address the issues in a way that would ensure the long-term viability and high-quality of the New Zealand University system.

Negotiations will resume in Christchurch next week with the assistance of an industrial mediator.

Please note: Today’s result is a provisional one with the final outcome to be confirmed on Monday.

Ends

For further information or comment please contact:
Helen Kelly, General Secretary, Association of University Staff (AUS)
Ph (04) 915 6690 (work) (04) 385 3153 (home) 027 436 6308 (mobile)
Email helen.kelly@canterbury.ac.nz

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