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Staff and students will expect more from National

Combined University Unions

Media Release
21 July 2005

Staff and students will expect more from National

The Association of University Staff (AUS) is asking the National Party for details on how it intends to improve salary rates for university staff to ensure comparable levels to those paid in Australia.

Releasing his party's tax plan on student loans this afternoon, Don Brash reaffirmed that reducing the gap in incomes between New Zealand and Australia will be a key theme of National's election campaign.

The base rates of academic salaries in New Zealand are currently up to 20 percent behind Australia, and when the value other entitlements, such as superannuation and additional leave arrangements, are taken into account, the difference is more than 30 percent. Top international staff are increasingly more difficult to recruit, a major problem for a system in which approximately 50 percent of academics are recruited overseas.

According to AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly, it is not just a problem with academic staff, as recruitment of general staff in many occupational classifications is also becoming a major problem. Illustrating this, IT professionals, qualified technicians in a number of areas and many trades groupings are currently on the New Zealand Immigration Services Long Term Skills Shortages List meaning they are linked to government's priorities for economic development.

Helen Kelly said that previous National administrations had been primarily responsible for the cuts to university funding and salaries. "In 1991 government funding made up 73 percent of total operating revenue of universities, but by 2002 this had fallen to 42 percent. At the same time, student fees rose from contributing 14 percent of revenue to 29 percent. Funding per student fell during this time from $9741 to $7309 in 2002 dollars. This combined with the Employment Contracts Act saw staff salaries stagnate. Our current poor comparative salary levels are a direct consequence of those policies."

University staff, who have been on strike this week as a result of the breakdown in collective agreement negotiations, have based current pay claims on parity with comparable Australian universities. "We look forward to Dr Brash outlining his funding policies for universities if he is indeed genuine about bridging the current gap between New Zealand and Australian universities," said Helen Kelly

"University students and staff will be expecting more substantial improvements as a result of this election," said Helen Kelly. "The tax rebates announced today are minimal and will do little to ease the burden of student loans for graduates. If they are coupled with fee increases and no additional student allowances, students and graduates will be worse off as a result of this policy."

Ends

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