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Opportunity to resolve pay dispute say unions

12 July 2005

Vice-chancellors have opportunity to resolve pay dispute say staff unions

University vice-chancellors have been urged by unions to show leadership in an effort to avoid strike action planned by staff during the fortnight between 20 July and 4 August.

Speaking on behalf of the combined university staff unions, Professor Nigel Haworth said that the Government's establishment of a University Salaries Group (USG) provided both a welcome and ideal opportunity for the parties to work in a tripartite process to consider and resolve the salary issues facing the sector, rather than becoming embroiled in an industrial confrontation.

Professor Haworth said that, in response to the establishment of the USG, the vice-chancellors had indicated their intention to try to have the group's terms of reference broadened to funding-in-general, including for infrastructure and other facilities. "In other words, they are willing to squander the first real chance to get real engagement with government on salary issues, despite their consistent assertion that realistic salary levels are not affordable at current funding levels," said Professor Haworth. "As a result, we are concerned that vice-chancellors stand to undermine the first opportunity in fifteen years to find real solutions to the most serious problem facing the sector, that of paying competitive salaries and ensuring the recruitment and retention of high-quality staff."

"From the Minister's perspective, this must be disturbing, if only because the vice-chancellors' position is so clearly at odds with government's industrial relations and tertiary education policies," said Professor Haworth. "Staff and students will look askance at this because, for most, their world is not the competitive one promoted by the vice-chancellors."

Professor Haworth said that vice-chancellors had become isolated from the mainstream of thinking about the university sector in New Zealand, and their participation in the USG would provide an opportunity for them to reassert a position as innovative leaders in the sector.

The university unions today completed a round of meetings at seven universities which reaffirmed a decision to take sustained strike action in protect at the vice-chancellors refusal to agree to national collective employment agreements for staff and inadequate salary offers of between 2 and 4.5 percent.

The Government's University Salaries Group will hold its first meeting tomorrow (13 July) to discuss its membership and terms of reference.

ENDS

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