Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 8
University staff seek assurance reviews will not increase workload
Employment negotiations for thousands of university staff at seven of New Zealand's eight universities will begin in three months’ time, and union members are already working out what the main issues they need to see addressed to improve their working life.
One of the biggest issues facing many staff is increasing workloads because of staff numbers not keeping pace with student numbers. TEU members across all seven universities will be claiming employment protection for staff whose workload increases because of redundancies or restructuring.
The nationwide claim says if within six months of a review, restructuring or management of change process concluding, employees believe that their workloads are excessive, or that staffing levels are not sufficient, they may request a review of their workload. If the review finds that workloads are not safe, equitable, or reasonable the university must take appropriate steps to remedy the situation.
TEU university academic vice-president John Prince says the short-term effect of reviews is stress and job losses, but the long-term effect, if reviews are poorly conceived, is increasing workloads.
"We want an assurance that the many reviews currently taking place are not just about cutting staff numbers and shifting all the existing work onto those staff who remain."
Employment negotiations will begin at the end of June for staff at the universities of AUT, Canterbury, Lincoln, Otago, Massey, Victoria and Waikato.
If you have a workload story to support TEU's negotiations, leave a comment here.
Restructuring affecting 500 workers
Tertiary institutions are in a constant state of restructuring says TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack. Last week TEU's national council heard that there are 59 reviews affecting 500 jobs currently underway across 17 different tertiary education institutions.
"500 members are about 5 percent of our membership. When one in twenty people are having their job changed or taken away from them we know we do not have a very stable environment for ensuring teaching and education."
"But the worst part is that we seem to be in a state of never-ending reviews. TEU's national council has been tracking reviews for a year now and they just keep coming," said Ms Cormack.
New reviews have recently started at Manukau Institute of Technology, NorthTec, Wintec, University of Auckland, AUT, University of Canterbury, Massey University, University of Otago, University of Waikato and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Ms Cormack says TEU has recorded 49 confirmed redundancies because of those reviews via voluntary or compulsory severance so far.
"500 members is about five percent of our membership. When one in twenty people is having their job changed or taken away from them we know we do not have a very stable environment for good teaching and education."
“In November last year we recorded 55 reviews at 12 institutions. In October 44 reviews at 17 institutions, in September 43 reviews at 18 institutions, in August 58 reviews at 20 institutions, in July 77 reviews at 24 institutions and so on,” said Ms Cormack.
New super ministry to manage commission
Although the Tertiary Education Commission was not formally subsumed within last week's new 'super' Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment it will fall under the purview of that ministry and be managed by it, according to the prime minister.
Prime Minister John Key told Radio New Zealand's Focus on Politics show last week that the commission is a crown entity "so effectively that crown entity will be managed by that new ministry in the same way that occurs with NZTE. It doesn’t get formally merged in because these are [only] government departments that get merged."
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Steven Joyce told Focus on Politics the challenge with tertiary is it fits both within the economic and education space.
"We are fortunate, if you like that we have a crown entity that is able to move between those two spaces. What we will probably see is a more formal relationship between the economic agency, the ministry of education and TEC. That will be helpful in terms of getting those dual benefits, both on the economics side and the educationeducation side."
Joyce said the justification for the merger was that he wanted one coherent source of advice rather than several views from different departments.
"At the moment we have significant churn between officials and agencies, and, as somebody who has been given a range of portfolios by the prime minister, we have ranges of officials coming with different views on a number of areas. So... in the skills area we have the Department of Labour, their view, the MED view, the TEC view, and so on and so forth."
TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey said the commission's funding advice needs to remain focused on high quality tertiary education.
"The danger is that the commission, under the purview of a ministry focused primarily on economic development, will make decisions against business and economic development criteria rather than quality education and research criteria," said Dr Grey.
Farewell Ray Fargher
TEU mourns the passing of Ray Fargher the first general secretary of the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutes (ATTI) this week. ATTI was founded in 1960 and Mr Fargher was its general secretary during the 1960s. ATTI eventually merged with the Teacher Colleges Association in 1998 to create ASTE, and ASTE merged with AUS in 2009 to create TEU.
Mr Fargher was a history teacher and a researcher of early European interaction with Maori. He spent 60 years researching and writing a biography of Donald McLean, who was the Crown's Maori land buyer in the 1840s and 50s. His book arising from that research work, The Best Man Who Ever Served the Crown? was published in 2007 and was one of the Sunday Star Times' books of the year for 2007. Ray is also remembered as the co-author of the Fargher-Probine report published in 1987 which looked at a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s qualifications. The report made recommendations for changes to the structure of New Zealand education which have been far reaching.
Ray died on Saturday aged 91.
Auckland ports back down on contracting out
Ports of Auckland has halted plans to contract out nearly 300 jobs and gone back to the bargaining table with the Maritime Union.
The port had planned to make 292 workers redundant and contract out their jobs after a long-running industrial dispute. The Employment Court held a hearing on Monday into the dispute. That put a stay on the 292 redundancies that the ports company had announced.
Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe told TVNZ workers were "thrilled" by the decision and that it meant they can return to work under their collective agreement.
The president of the Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, told Radio New Zealand the company is clearly nervous about its redundancy plan.
"Obviously the port has considered its legal position; last week there was no turning back, next minute we're turning back and we're into bargaining, which suggests they've had a reversal of their view that what they were undertaking was lawful."
TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs said the turnaround for the port was an important moment not just for the wharfies but also for all union members.
"The port wanted to casualise its entire workforce. When it did not get exactly what it wanted it tried to sack its entire workforce and replace them with contract workers. If the Port gets away with that sort of behaviour workers all over the country, including in tertiary education, will be at risk of increased casualisation and job-insecurity," said Ms Riggs.
Aussie tutors join the 'Precariat' workforce
It is a global phenomenon so widespread that a new name has been coined for it: the ''precariat''.
It describes the millions of people who live a precarious existence of social and economic uncertainty - who jump from one short-term contract or piece of casual work to the next.
James Searle had not expected to join this group's swelling ranks. Nevertheless, the information technology tutor at Swinburne University is a classic example of a worldwide trend in which Australia has taken an unenviable lead: job insecurity.
Mr Searle has been a sessional teacher at Swinburne since the start of last year; he finds out only at the start of each semester how long his services will be required, and for how many hours he will work.
''I'll probably be doing it for the foreseeable future,'' says the 27-year-old database and information systems expert, who is among a group of sessional teachers at the university who run first-year classes.
Often, says Mr Searle, he is not paid on time and the position's insecurity can make it hard to plan. He acknowledges there are upsides - it can be convenient, and there are extra penalty rates.
''But it doesn't count for the things you miss out on, like superannuation,'' he says.
Once a permanent job was the norm in Australia, but since the 1980s a dramatic decline in full-time employment and a corresponding jump in casual and fixed-term work like Mr Searle's has left up to 40 percent of the nation - both blue-collar workers and white alike - in insecure work.
Thanks to Clay Lucas at The Age for the story.
International trade agreement akin to asset sales
New Zealanders have spoken out against the sale of our assets recently, saying some things are too valuable to give away to companies to make profits off them.
But secret talks underway between New Zealand and eight other countries could have a much bigger impact on our ability to hold on to things that are important.
If negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) succeed, it would give corporations new powers and special rights, and make it much harder for us to have a say in how we run the country.
Actor Martin Henderson says the deal would put at risk the best of New Zealand, to give more power to foreign corporations.
"We have so much to lose with this shonky deal: control of our land and natural resources, affordable medicine, cultural diversity."
Corporations would have the ability to sue a country for millions of dollars if the government went ahead with new policies or laws that affected the firm’s profits.
Many New Zealanders support plain packaging of cigarettes to bring down the thousands of smoking related deaths each year.
But under the TPPA a tobacco company could complain that this hurt their profits, and sue for compensation – exactly what the makers of Marlboro cigarettes are trying to do to the Australian government right now under another trade agreement.
The TPPA would also affect other things like keeping medicine affordable, restricting land sales and regulating the kinds of financial practices that led to the Global Financial Crisis.
Thanks to First Union for the story
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