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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 14 No 46

NorthTec only ITP that can't settle

NorthTec is currently trying to cut working conditions and extend teaching hours for its staff, when most other polytechnics around the country have come to amicable settlements with their staff in the last two months.

NorthTec, one of only two remaining ex-MECA ITPs yet to settle with its TEU staff members, is seeking to remove all limits on timetabled teaching hours and maximum number of teaching days from staff working conditions, as well as reducing leave for new staff, so they can teach more.

NorthTec CEO Paul Binney told TEU negotiators that getting fewer staff doing more work wasn’t immediately underpinning his employment offer, but he added:

"Let’s not duck that topic. That has to be an objective going forward. We need to be more productive and efficient so need to do more for less."

Mr Binney’s proposal could see staff working between 1033 and 1134 teaching hours a year. There is no other employer across the sector who is proposing to increase the annual teaching load beyond 825 timetabled teaching hours a year.

This has led to the situation where TEU members at NorthTec today begin a ballot for industrial action, at the same time that TEU members elsewhere around the country are holding ratification ballots. 

"Given the settled environment elsewhere, we anticipate a concentrated effort at NorthTec next year", said Organiser Chan Dixon, "although their employer’s unreasonable position is hardly the 'ho ho ho' that TEU members at NorthTec want as they head towards the summer break, especially after more than three years without an increase to their salary."

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Threatened boycott on advertised jobs at VUW
  2. Student loan statistics get worse
  3. OECD says invest in education to end inequality
  4. Charter schools an unpleasant surprise
  5. Have your say on Tertiary Update next year
  6. Other news

Threatened boycott on advertised jobs at VUW

TEU members at Victoria University of Wellington are meeting next week to consider calling for an international boycott on applying for any advertised academic positions at the university until the university's senior management agrees to cease forced redundancies in pursuit of academic change.

TEU organiser Michael Gilchrist says forced redundancies have increased in frequency in the last year.

"These redundancies have lacked a coherent rationale and genuine consultation and have been demoralising and destructive to both staff and students in the programmes affected."

At meetings in August and September TEU members resolved to meet with senior management as soon as possible, to discuss the university’s strategic and investment plans.

They said normal staff turnover should provide ample opportunities for re-shaping academic programmes, without the need for forced redundancies. They also resolved to explore options such as 'grey-listing' any vacancies created as a result of forced redundancies.

Grey-listing is asking academics at other universities not to apply for any advertised jobs at Victoria University during the dispute.

TEU wrote to the vice-chancellor Pat Walsh, on 14 October, seeking to meet to discuss its concerns about forced redundancies. A meeting with a delegation from the university’s senior management team should occur early next week ahead of meetings with members scheduled later in the week to discuss their response.

Student loan statistics get worse

The average amount borrowed by a tertiary student in 2010 was $7,300, up 4.4 percent on 2009 ($310) according to Statistics New Zealand's yearly report on student loans and allowances. Statistics NZ says this is the highest average amount borrowed on record and the greatest annual percentage increase since the student loan scheme began.

An increase in the amount borrowed for course fees caused the rise in overall student borrowing.

"On average, students borrowed $5,080 for course fees in 2010, an increase of 6.5 percent on 2009 (up $310). The average amount borrowed for both living and course-related costs remained relatively similar to those of 2009," Statistics New Zealand reports.

Statistics New Zealand also reported that former students who left study in 2009 earned less than their predecessors did. The average income one year after leaving study for students who left in 2009 was down 4.5 percent compared with those who left in 2008 ($31,300 down to $29,900).

"This is the third successive year that average income has decreased for students entering the workforce and reflects the impact of the recession on earnings in the labour market.”

The drop in income was particularly evident for students aged 20–24 years, down 7.0 percent compared with that received by students of the same age who left in 2008.

OECD says invest in education to end inequality

The OECD's report 'Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising' argues that skills training and education is crucial to addressing inequality.

The report received significant media attention this week when it showed New Zealand had one of the largest increases in inequality over the last 25 years.

It noted that a rise in the supply of skilled workers in many countries helped offset the increase in wage inequality. Raising the skills level of the labour force also had a significant positive impact on employment growth.

It calls for "three pillars" of actions to close the gap - investing more in education and training, helping all groups into jobs, and closing tax loopholes to make the rich pay a fairer share of taxes.

"There is nothing inevitable about high and growing inequalities," said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria.

The OECD also noted that a decline in collective bargaining and workers’ rights contributed to inequality.

"Part-time work increased, atypical labour contracts became more common and the coverage of collective-bargaining arrangements declined in many countries. These changes in working conditions also contributed to rising earnings inequality."

Charter schools an unpleasant surprise

TEU's national teacher education representative Brian Marsh is surprised the government intends to experiment with charter schools.

"If we don't have strong evidence that charter schools provide better outcomes for students, why would we adopt them? What's our purpose?"

Mr Marsh says a central component of New Zealand's successful and highly regarded education system is its focus on ensuring all schools employ staff who are educated and qualified to be teachers. Most models of charter schools in other countries move away from that premise, by freeing private education providers to hire teachers with qualifications or registration.

Dr Peter Lind, Director of the Teachers Council has also warned that charter schools do not have any strong evidence to support their introduction.

"Bringing an American governance model into New Zealand right now may distract attention and resources away from initiatives to strengthen teaching here," said Dr Lind.

Mr Marsh says it would be a shame to see charter schools undermine the value and integrity of New Zealand's teacher education system by sending out a message that high quality teacher education is optional.

Have your say on Tertiary Update next year

This is the last Tertiary Update for 2011. We will be back in late January next year with more tertiary education news from the perspective of those who work in the sector.

In the meantime we will be talking to Tertiary Update readers about what you would like to see change, what you would like to see stay the same, and what you would like to see improved. Either you can complete our short multi-choice survey at or you can email us at

As with this year we will continue to look for stories from people working in tertiary education, so if you have an issue or a piece of news that you would like to see in tertiary update next year remember to send us an email or give us a call.

Other news

Tertiary Education Union UCOL branch president Tina Smith voices her support for locked-out CMP workers at a protest near a McDonald's outlet, in Palmerston North - Photo in the Manawatu Standard

Lincoln University has closed two buildings after a detailed engineering inspection. Vice-chancellor Roger Field said today the Hilgendorf Wing (including the TEU office) and the Student Union building would be shut until further notice - The Press

The University of Canterbury will rely on its implicit Government guarantee to meet payments to investors on its unrated 10-year bonds after the earthquakes scared off students - TVNZ

New Zealand has really done little more than keep up with inflation until the last three years when expenditure has started to increase, but even now we are probably still at 60 to 70 percent of what appears to be an international consensus on the appropriate level of public expenditure  committed to research by other small advanced nations. There is evidence that private sector spending only starts to increase when a critical mass of activity flows from the public sector - Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor.

Many workers with caring responsibilities want flexible working arrangements and/or part-time hours. But there is no evidence to suggest these workers want casual work. Research suggests they are forced to accept casual work or other types of insecure work because they are unable to access quality on-going part-time work - The University of South Australia and the Workplace Research Centre debunk five myths about insecure work.


Authorised by Sharn Riggs, Tertiary Education Union, 8th Floor, Education House 178-182 Willis St, Wellington 6011.

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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