Unitec Students Fear Failure Due to Strikes
Unitec students could fail their courses as a result of persistent striking from Unitec staff.
Unitec members of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) have been striking intermittently since September 16, hitting students in the crucial exam period. Today marks the third day of strike action at Unitec this month.
Student President of USU Students’ Association Greg Powell said the USU Students’ Association at Unitec has fielded many complaints from affected students who “fear their lecturers’ actions will compromise their study and the results of their courses.”
The TEU has rejected the recent employers’ offer of a two percent salary increase with no back-dating and an 18 month term from the date of signing. Employers also want discretionary leave to be at their discretion rather than the employees’ as it is for other staff on individual contracts. The employers also want to increase teaching days by ten percent.
The discretionary leave for Unitec’s union members is currently over-and-above what is offered to staff on individual contracts. Under the current agreement the union members potentially get four more weeks of holiday leave totalling potentially nine weeks of annual leave plus two weeks of professional development leave.
Mr Powell said “striking and withdrawing education from students, particularly during the exam preparation period, is incredibly serious – causing a great deal of stress on students, and to use it to ask for more holidays than the rest of the staff at Unitec seems opportunistic.”
Union members have had the chance to strike during the recent mid-semester break to target management in a way which would not have had a direct affect on students.
Striking or picketing faculty academic committees, academic board, council meetings, and strategic working parties and striking their own research projects could have been more effective, Mr Powell said.
He said he was “disgusted that students are being used as the meat in the sandwich.
“On the first day of strike action in September they even picketed our graduation ceremony which sought to ruin a very important day for students and their families. It also displayed their deliberate intention to involve students in an argument that should be kept between the union and the employer.
“The Students’ Association has tried to get the issues resolved with minimal effect on students. We have contacted the TEU numerous times to request meetings so that we can inform our students and the TEU have refused to meet with us.”
Mr Powell acknowledged that the salary increase is minimal and said that the Students’ Association had some sympathy for this. However, he believed this could have been dealt with a lot better causing less disruption to students and focusing the stress and frustration on the employer instead.
“The Tertiary Education Union’s decision not to communicate with us shows a lack of good faith, particularly when other actions that would not affect students do not appear to have been considered.”
It is not known how long the industrial action will continue for.