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Industrial action in universities hits mark

Combined University Unions
Media Release
21 March 2005

Industrial action in universities hits mark

Staff say that strike action at New Zealand universities yesterday was particularly successful and have promised more action over the next fortnight unless the dispute is resolved.

Lecture theatres were left empty in six New Zealand universities after more than 6,000 academic and general staff took the action over inadequate pay offers and the refusal of vice-chancellors to agree to national settlement of the current bargaining round. The universities affected were Auckland, Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Canterbury and Lincoln.

The unions representing university staff are seeking a national settlement and salary increases which will bring university staff closer to internationally acceptable levels. Negotiations broke down after vice-chancellors refused to agree to the national settlement and made pay offers of between 2 and 4.5 percent, conditional on single-employer bargaining.

Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that the strike had been particularly effective and overwhelmingly well supported by union members. "This was a magnificent success, showing clearly staff frustration about low pay levels and their impact on the quality of the New Zealand university sector ," he said. "The only real activity on campuses was staff pickets and rallies in support on the unions' position."

"Vice-Chancellors can be in no doubt that their staff are committed to a national settlement," said Professor Haworth. "It is the means to resolve current salary problems throughout the sector, and to establish common pay rate and conditions of employment across the country. It is time the vice-chancellors accepted this, agreed on a national settlement and worked collectively with the Government and the unions to resolve broader funding and salary problems.

Professor Haworth said that yesteday's action was not taken lightly and motivated, not just to support strong salary levels, but to ensure the future of a strong national university system.

Staff at the University of Otago have accepted a deal from their Vice-Chancellor which allow further discussion on multi-employer bargaining, but last minute discussions at several universities failed to avert the strike action.

Protest action and rolling strikes will take place over the next fortnight, culmination in another national strike on 4 August.


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