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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 17

Students protest 'black' budget

Students at the universities of Auckland and Victoria are planning to protest today's budget and impending to cuts to student allowances.

The student action group 'We are the University' at both universities are holding student association and TEU endorsed protests.

At Auckland University, over a thousand students have said that they will attend a 'student strike' outside the library at 1.00pm.

At Victoria University of Wellington students are planning to march to Parliament from their Kelburn campus at 12 noon.

We Are the University Auckland says the government is planning to attack students with this year's budget:

"It will affect current students, ex-students and potential future students by limiting allowances to the first four years of study or 200 weeks (with no exceptions for longer degrees or postgrad study), by freezing the parental income threshold to get the allowance (so even fewer students can get it), and increasing the repayment rate from 10 percent to 12 percent. We have had enough of the short sighted, mindless politics of austerity that limit who gets access to tertiary education and that see us paying rent to a generation that had everything they are taking from us." 

TEU will have analysis and comment on Budget 2012, as well as links to coverage of tertiary education-related and employment-related Budget news on its website.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. TEU rejects performance pay in education
  2. Good employment law crucial to good vocational training
  3. Time to reinvest universities' million dollar surpluses back in staff
  4. Insecure work rife in Australian universities
  5. Other news

TEU rejects performance pay in education

The government's announcement that it wants to introduce performance pay into the education sector flies in the face of research and good practice says TEU national president Sandra Grey.

"Most of the credible evidence shows that performance pay in any sector, but especially in education, is demotivating. The main benefit for employers is simply that, over time, it lowers the total amount they need to spend on salaries or wages."

US motivation expert Dan Pink recently noted that reward systems often backfire. In fact, compensation based upon performance may actually lead to worse academic results for students.

"The research shows that money matters. It just matters in a slightly different way than we suspect. Paying people unfairly — say, when Jane makes less than June for the same work — is extremely demotivating. And, of course, low salaries can deter some people from pursuing certain professions. Therefore, the best use of money as a motivator, at least for complex work, is to compensate people fairly and to try to take the issue of money off the table.  That means paying healthy base salaries…" 

Dr Grey said performance pay for education would be a harmful idea for education in New Zealand, including for academic, general/allied staff and for students in tertiary education. 

Management researcher Alfie Kohn says performance pay makes employees feel that they are being punished, it is manipulative, it ruptures good workplace relations and it deters risk-taking. Mr Kohn notes

"Not a single controlled study has shown a long-term improvement in the quality of work as a result of any reward system. That would be an astonishing fact were it not for the existence of scores of studies – conducted with adults as well as children, in real workplaces among other venues – that have demonstrated how rewards tend to be not merely ineffective but powerfully counterproductive."

Good employment law crucial to good vocational training

Teachers must be included in governance and delivery decisions about vocational education and training according to Education International's special advisor David Robinson.

Dr Robinson, who was speaking at a UNESCO International Congress on vocational education and training in Shanghai said Education International is increasingly concerned that reforms are most often something done to teachers and trainers, rather than with them.

"Particularly in the wake of the financial crisis and the imposition of austerity measures, we have seen a dangerous trend toward governments and employers not negotiating with teachers across the education sector," Robinson emphasised. "In some extreme cases, we've even seen legislative denials of basic negotiating and bargaining rights."

Ironically, Dr Robinson's comments came on the same day New Zealand's Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced a package of new employment law measures that will allow employers to opt out of concluding collective employment negotiations, to opt out of multi-employer bargaining, and to opt out of offering new employees the union negotiated employment conditions during their first 30 days of employment.

"[Vocational education and training] around the world faces a number of challenges," Dr Robinson stated. "These challenges cannot be effectively met without strong social dialogue mechanisms."

The International Labour Organisation and UNESCO define social dialogue in the education sector to mean "all forms of information sharing, consultation, and negotiation between educational authorities, public and private, and teachers and their democratically elected representatives in teachers' organisations."

For example, Dr Robinson noted that one critical challenge is the need to recruit and retain qualified teachers.

"Social dialogue has a key role to play in ensuring that vocational education and training teachers and trainers enjoy appropriate terms and conditions of employment and career prospects," said Dr Robinson. "In line with international labour standards, collective bargaining is a basic right that is critical in this regard. Collective bargaining between employers and teachers' unions, while not always easy, shows that negotiated solutions to difficult choices are necessary if we are to be successful."

Time to reinvest universities' million dollar surpluses back in staff

Tertiary institutions are releasing their 2011 annual reports and, despite falling government funding, most fared well financially. 

TEU's national secretary Sharn Riggs says this bodes well for collective agreement negotiations, which start soon at seven of New Zealand's eight universities.

Victoria University reported a $14.5 million surplus (4.3 percent of revenue). AUT had a $9 million surplus (3.1 percent of revenue). The University of Auckland posted a $32 million surplus (3.5 percent of revenue) and the University of Otago had surplus of s $26 million, (4.5 percent of revenue). All except the University of Auckland are due to begin negotiations soon.

The University of Canterbury reported an overall loss of $115m (39 percent of revenue) once costs relating to the earthquakes were accounted for. Lincoln, Waikato and Massey have not published their annual reports yet.

AUT, Otago and Victoria all reported surpluses that are higher than the three percent target that the Tertiary Education Commission requires them generate.

"University vice-chancellors consistently say that New Zealand needs to invest it its university employees, and that their pay and employment conditions need to be internationally competitive," said Ms Riggs. "Now that they are in a stronger financial position than the government requires of them, they are in the ideal position to invest in solving the problem they themselves have identified and decried."

Insecure work rife in Australian universities

The Australian National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is welcoming the results of an independent inquiry into insecure work.

The report, Lives on Hold, came out last week and was the result of a nationwide six-month examination into insecure employment, which now affects nearly forty per cent of the Australian workforce.

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President said insecure and casual work was widespread within tertiary education.

"As an academic, I have watched the gradual casualisation of my profession over the last decade with growing alarm."

"As many as 77,000 out of a total university workforce of approximately 180,000 are now casually employed. More than half the undergraduate teaching in Australian universities is carried out by casual academics employed by the teaching hour."

"As the report makes clear, the key divide in our workforce is no longer between blue-collar and white collar workers, but between those who have secure work with full entitlements and those on the 'periphery' of the workforce who are employed in casual and contract positions."

Dr Rea says there are adverse financial and physical impacts of casual employment on the workers concerned.

"I constantly hear stories of talented young academics that have left the sector due to the financial and emotional stress involved. It's a major waste of talent."

The full report from the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work, Lives on hold: Unlocking the potential of Australia's workforceis available here.

Other news

Campaigners are calling for a "living wage" in New Zealand, inspired by policies in United States cities and London. The Living Wage Aotearoa NZ campaign is drawing support from unions, churches, Pacific, women's and community groups. Organiser Annie Newman of the Service and Food Workers Union said it was inspired by "living wage" policies governing council contracts in more than 140 US cities and in London, where the rate of £8.30 ($17.35) an hour is 37 percent above the legal minimum wage - The Herald

Tertiary Education Minister Stephen Joyce is defending the decision to decline loans to students failing their papers as "absolutely" the right one to make, despite targeting less than five per cent of the students it was expected to - Stuff

Tensions have escalated further in Montreal as Quebec's legislature voted in favour of an emergency law, Bill 78, to end the 100 days of student strikes. The Bill pauses the current academic year at institutions affected by strikes; imposes steep fines for anyone who tries blocking access to an institution; and limits where, how, and for how long people can protest in Quebec. Critics blasted the bill as an affront to civil rights, an overreaction or ill-considered improvisation. Thousands stormed the streets of Montreal and Quebec City late Friday night to protest the bill's passage - CBC/Radio-Canada

Millions of youth around the world have essentially given up looking for a job, warned the International Labour Organization (ILO) in a new report. The global youth unemployment rate (at 12.6 per cent in 2011) would be a full percentage point higher if it included the number of young people who have dropped out of the labour market, said the ILO in its "Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012" report.  Of particular concern are young people who are neither in employment nor in education or training – known by the acronym NEET. If youth are economically inactive because they are in education or training, they invest in skills that may improve their future employability, but NEETs risk both labour market and social exclusion - ILO

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