Why Unitec workers are right to strike
In support of striking workers at Unitec
I was dismayed by the one-sided coverage of the strike at Unitec on One News last Friday. One News failed to explain why staff at Unitec were taking industrial action, yet it relayed comments critical of the strike by the Chief Executive Officer of Unitec and a couple of students.
As a graduate of and former employee of Unitec, I understand students' frustration at not receiving their final grades. Nevertheless I believe it is Unitec's management, not its workers, who are to blame for the strike. Management wants staff members to increase their teaching load from 185 to 204 days each a year, but it is offering union members only a 1% pay rise over two and a half years in return. This pay offer doesn’t even keep up with the cost of living. By contrast, non-union staff have already received pay increases of 4% backdated to January 2009.
Unitec is discriminating against workers who exercise their democratic right and choose to belong to a union. If the discriminatory policies of Unitec management are allowed to continue then standards at the institution will inevitably suffer, as staff become overworked and internally divided. Withholding grades is a legitimate form of industrial action for staff to take, and it is being taken in the long-term interests of students.
When I studied at Unitec I had fantastic lecturers, and I also found the general staff were hard working and supportive. I would hate to see the quality of the service and lecturing decline. Staff are the greatest asset of any educational institution. If Unitec wants to be a top quality educator then it needs to treat its workers well. I wholeheartedly support the staff at Unitec and other polytechs and the industrial action they have been forced to take.
Former student and staff member at Unitec
Vice President, University of Auckland Branch of the Tertiary Education Union