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Vice-Chancellors And Unions Reach Agreement

Combined University Unions

Media Release
26 August 2005

Vice-Chancellors And Unions Reach Agreement

University staff unions and Vice-Chancellors from all New Zealand universities have agreed to a national "umbrella" agreement which provides a basis for resolving current industrial problems, and sets out the terms for the parties to work together on a collaborative basis to address major funding and salary issues facing the university sector.

Union members at the Auckland University of Technology may also be included in this agreement but their industrial negotiations are separate from the negotiations at the other seven universities.

Under the proposed national "umbrella" agreement, the parties will work actively and co-operatively with each other through the University Tripartite Forum, recently established by the Government, to consider and resolve long-standing salary problems and, more broadly, funding problems in the sector. The agreement requires Vice-Chancellors and unions to work actively with each other, to establish co-operative and open relationships and to implement relevant agreed outcomes from the forum into collective agreements.

The "umbrella" agreement will be signed by the Vice-Chancellors and the seven unions representing university staff. It provides an overarching context for the settlement of local employment agreements which are currently under negotiation.

Union members at New Zealand's universities have been engaged in strike and other protest action following the breakdown of employment agreement negotiation in July. They are seeking national collective employment agreements and the resolution of long-standing salary problems in the sector.

On behalf of the combined university unions, Professor Nigel Haworth said the proposed national "umbrella" agreement was potentially the most significant bargaining development in the sector in 15 years. "We have long argued that our industrial campaign must have a political solution as well as an industrial one, and the Government recently recognised this with the establishment of the University Tripartite Forum," he said. "The proposed umbrella agreement will provide a basis on which Vice-Chancellors and unions are able to approach the forum with a common purpose, and ensure the best outcomes for the sector."

"Together we have agreed to a solution that provides the benefits members were seeking from a national agreement in which all the parties see great merit. Union members want a national approach to resolving the salary issues and this agreement together with the tripartite forum meets this expectation."

NZVCC Chair Professor Stuart McCutcheon said Vice-Chancellors initiated the new approach because they shared a desire to resolve long-standing salary issues.

"However, Vice-Chancellors did not see multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs) as the way to achieve that. We are committed to this process and hope that it will bring benefits to all parties. It will now be important for Government to engage actively and constructively to resolve the chronic underfunding of the New Zealand university system."

The forum is expected to meet soon after the General Election, and both unions and the vice-chancellors want to see the work of the group reflected in the next Budget.


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