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University negotiations break down

University negotiations break down

Negotiations for new national collective employment agreements between university unions and vice-chancellors have broken down. Universities will now, for the first time ever, face prolonged national strike action.

The negotiations, which resumed in Christchurch today, broke down after all of the university employers maintained their previous refusal to agree to national collective agreements, insisting on single-employer agreements with salary increases ranging from 2.0 percent (Massey) to 4.5 percent (Auckland). Some of the universities have also now initiated single-employer bargaining.

Combined university unions’ spokesperson, Jeff Rowe, said that the unions had hoped that vice-chancellors would respond positively to an offer by the Government, made last week, to establish a Universities Salaries Group to investigate and resolve long-recognised salary problems in the sector. “The unions had proposed an interim settlement to these negotiations which would have facilitated the opportunity for the parties to find long-term solutions to the salary issues faced by universities,” he said. “The employers’ rejection of our position, and their luke-warm support of the Government’s proposal lead us to question their commitment to resolving these issues at all.”

Association of University Staff General Secretary, Helen Kelly, called on university councils to now step into the dispute, saying it was an important governance matter. “That the vice-chancellors are jeopardising a significant opportunity to work constructively with the Government and unions to find solutions should be of major concern to councils,” she said. “Even if vice-chancellors are prepared to risk the long-term quality and reputation of New Zealand universities, their councils should not.

The unions will hold meetings over the next week to consider escalating industrial action, already proposed to start on 20 July.


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