Overwhelming mandate for university strike action
Union members at New Zealand
universities have voted to take up to five days strike
action in support of pay claims and new national collective
employment agreements for academic and general staff.
Unions representing more than 7,000 university staff have been in negotiations since October 2003 claiming two new national collective agreements to replace more than 13 enterprise agreements currently negotiated at a local university level.
Salary claims of up to 10% per annum for each of the next three years were filed by staff in an attempt to address long standing national and international pay disparities. A claim has also been made for a national job evaluation for general staff to provide a national consistency to salary rates.
University employers have offered salary increases of between 2.0% and 4.0%, and have refused to agree to the new national collective employment agreements.
At a series of meetings held in the seven traditional New Zealand universities over the past week, union members participating in the ballot have voted by 79% to embark on the strike action over five weeks from 28 April. A full day’s strike action will take place on 28 April and on 25 May, with full or partial strike action scheduled in the intervening weeks.
A further five days of strike action have been foreshadowed for July if the dispute is not resolved before then.
Speaking on behalf of the combined unions, Association of University Staff (AUS) General Secretary Helen Kelly said it was time university employers and the Government seriously addressed the salary and funding issues which have beset the sector for over a decade. “Government funding of universities has diminished by 23% in real terms over the last decade and this has resulted in an erosion of salary rates which threatens the long-term quality of university education,” she said. “The decision, to take an unprecedented level of industrial action, shows that staff are no longer prepared to leave these matters unresolved.”
“Employers in the sector have no strategy for challenging the Government’s continued underfunding of universities; we are providing that strategy,” said Ms Kelly. “Without increased funding, looming workforce shortages will start to have a real impact on the country’s ability to deliver quality university education. Employers have a responsibility for the long term health of the system and they are neglecting it.”
Ms Kelly said that in light of the strong mandate in the ballot, the unions have written to the universities inviting further negotiations in an attempt to try and resolve the dispute.
The universities affected are Auckland, Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Canterbury, Lincoln and Otago.
For further information or comment please contact:
Helen Kelly, General Secretary, Association of University Staff (AUS)
Ph (04)915 6691 (work) (04) 385 3153 027 4366 308 (mob)
Jeff Rowe, Advocate, Association of
University Staff (AUS)
Ph (04) 915 6692 (work) (04) 380 9212 (home) 021 375 670 (mobile)
Further background information can be found on the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz