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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 14 No 17

Court rules again: it's time for bargaining to begin

TEU has won another significant legal decision against the five polytechnic employers who are refusing to negotiate site based collective agreements.

Last month a full bench of the Employment Court ruled that Northtec, Unitec, Wintec, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Whitireia were required to negotiate site based collective agreements in good faith according to TEU's initiation notices. After losing this decision, the employers decided they wanted it appealed and sought a stay that would allow them to refuse to begin bargaining until a decision had been made as to whether or not the appeal would be allowed by the Appeal Court. The Court of Appeal heard the case on Tuesday 17 May and we await the decision.

The Employment Court heard the application for a stay last week and ruled, yet again, in favour of TEU.

On behalf of the full Employment Court, Chief Judge Colgan said:

"To now stop the collective bargaining that the judgment permits, based on the union's bargaining initiations, would be to delay, perhaps significantly, the settlement of collective agreements. This would not accord with the statutory objectives of orderly bargaining and the prompt settlement of collective agreements."

Justice Colgan also strongly recommended that the employers cooperate with the TEU to begin the process of bargaining and to explain to staff the on-going litigation and its effects.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Wintec management pockets student cash
  2. University of Auckland’s ranking at risk
  3. Opportunity the big tertiary education issue for the budget
  4. Other news

Wintec management pockets student cash

Wintec is making a profit at the expense of staff and students according to TEU national president Sandra Grey.

Wintec's recently released Annual Report for 2010 shows Wintec has nearly doubled its surplus from the previous year, from 1.4 million to 2.7 million. However, in doing so it has increased domestic student fees (per EFTS) from $2900 to $3700: a rise of 28 percent. It has also increased the student: staff ratio over the last two years from 17.8:1 to 19.0:1.

"Students at Wintec are paying much higher fees than they were in 2008 or 2009 but in return they have got bigger classes and staff with higher workloads."

Dr Grey says that given the workload pressure that staff at Wintec are facing it is interesting to read in the 2008 Wintec Annual Report that the percentage of staff working above their timetabled teaching hours (TTH or workload) target was not reported on because a baseline was yet to be established. Two years later, in this most recent report, Wintec has still not captured any data or set itself a performance target for the number of staff working above their timetabled teaching hours (TTH) or workload target.

"Wintec students will be worried that their institution's inability to engage with its own staff is making it harder for them to study. Massive increases in fees, larger class sizes and staff with no significant pay rises and growing workloads is a recipe that could harm the institution's brand," said Dr Grey.

University of Auckland’s ranking at risk

More than 300 academic staff at the University of Auckland, including over 90 professors and associate professors so far, have pledged not to submit their research portfolios to management as part of an on-going dispute over control of their academic working conditions.

As a result, their portfolios will be excluded from national research funding (PBRF) calculations and the University of Auckland will slip in the research rankings, with a consequential loss of millions of dollars from the University’s budget.

In 2009 PBRF funding was worth $39 million to the university, or $24,000 per full-time academic.

The PBRF protest is a further step in the on-going industrial action by academic staff at the university as they attempt to prevent the vice-chancellor from removing core academic conditions related to research and professional practice from their employment agreement.

TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs says staff regret having to take this action, but they have been forced to do so because the vice-chancellor is refusing to address their concerns.

To date, the staff's actions have included daily pickets outside the vice-chancellor's office, targeting of public events at the university, wearing of rosettes at graduation ceremonies, stop-work meetings, and a large public rally of students and staff. During the campaign TEU membership has continued to grow from about 800 academics at the university, to nearly 1000.

"Members strongly believe that by jeopardising the conditions that enable them to perform their professional responsibilities the vice-chancellor is threatening the credibility of the university," said Ms Riggs.

Opportunity the big tertiary education issue for the budget

The budget is due today and we already have a good sense of what it will mean for tertiary education. For most the big tertiary education issue in this year's budget will be whether it affords new opportunities for people to study or limits people's chances to study.  In recent weeks government pre-budget announcements have focused on the government's measures to limit access to student loans.

NZPA reported this week that the government intends to restrict living cost loans to people aged over 55 in tomorrow's budget, but that the Human Rights Commission's Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Judy McGregor, is concerned such a policy would potentially be unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Act.

The government also intends to focus on overseas student loan borrowers by cutting the three-year repayment holiday for borrowers who go overseas to one year, and using debt collectors in Australia and Britain to recall about $2.3 billion in student debt overseas.

Last week the minister of tertiary education Steven Joyce announced that today’s budget will provide up to $42 million for trades training for Canterbury, The funding would provide up to 1500 additional training places "as part of a comprehensive response to meet additional demand for labour for the earthquake reconstruction programme."

Overall the big issue is the total dollar amount the government intends to spend on tertiary education though. In Treasury's latest forecasts government funding for tertiary education funding will fall every year between 2009 and 2014. Most of this reduction is due to a tightening in eligibility for student loans, but it also includes falls in funding for tuition and other tertiary education spending.

TEU will be reporting on how the budget affects the EFTS cap, student access to education, and funding to support quality learning and teaching as it emerges. For TEU commentary on the budget once it is released, visit our budget 2011 page

Other news

In a letter sent to the Waikato Times, Management School Dean, Professor Frank Scrimgeour, advised staff he ''proposed to disestablish all senior tutor and tutor positions within the faculty.'' The letter said it was still at proposal stage and staff had until 6 May to respond with ideas. The letter said the tutor positions were not consistent with the University's commitment to research-led teaching and did not provide an adequate career track for new academic staff. - Waikato Times

"Is he aware that changes to the student loan rules that take effect next year has caused the Inland Revenue Department to shelve its new student loan software project after spending $21m; if so, when did he first become aware of the problem?" - David Shearer to the Minister for Tertiary Education (16 May 2011). An answer is due 24 May.

The Tertiary Education Commission is recovering up to $4.3 million from 18 ITOs, which have claimed more funds than they are entitled to in 2009, based on numbers of trainees and the status of trainees. "The money that is being recovered relates to funding claimed for trainees where there is no clear record of eligibility for government funding," says Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce.

"This is why, for all my libertarian tendencies, I support strong public options. Public roads, public healthcare, public safety and public education. Education is perhaps the most important. The better educated someone is, the less likely they are to use other public options like healthcare or prison beds. So an investment now in education pays off many times over down the road." - Forbes

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day.

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