Posted by Skyler:
My academic colleagues at the University of Auckland are prepared to turn down a 4% pay rise to protect key terms and conditions in their contracts which enable them to do their jobs well and provide quality education to students and undertake valuable research.
I have been part of the union bargaining team at The University of Auckland for the past seven months trying to come to a settlement with our employer. We have bargained in good faith and searched for compromises. We've dropped or revised our claims, considered and accepting some of the employer's claims. Through the last seven months, though, the agents of vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon have said no to all our claims, in a spectacular display of hubris.
At the 11th hour of negotiations, just before Christmas, McCutcheon's team put forward a final offer to academic staff that would see academics losing some of their most cherished rights in exchange for a 4% salary increase. The claw-backs would have removed clauses in contracts affecting matters like research leave, promotions and disciplinary procedures. If these key terms and conditions are removed from academics' contracts then staff will only be able to get research and study leave at the pleasure of McCutcheon's senior management. Research, which has traditionally been a core part of the work of academics, could become a privilege for a few rather than a key part of all academics work. Removing these conditions will make it much harder for the University to attract and retain quality staff and postgraduate students. Having these conditions inside the collective agreement is one of the draw-cards for people contemplating working at The University of Auckland.
Academic union members met across the university last week and discussed why the vice-chancellor does not want to listen to their fears and concerns about removing these conditions from their contracts and the impact it would have on education and research at the university. Staff agreed that rejecting the demands of McCutcheon and his bargaining team may cost them them a cut in their real income, and that some industrial action may be necessary, but they consider that such sacrifices will be worthwhile if they help protect their working conditions and quality teaching and research at their university.
A real consequence of all this could be the widening of the wealth and knowledge gap between New Zealand and many other parts of the world. Future generations of Kiwi students will be affected as the quality of their education declines and their qualifications are not worth as much. My hope is that the alumni who have benefited from the high quality of teaching and research at the University of Auckland will come out in support of their former teachers. Let's call on the vice-chancellor to be the best employer in the country, and to listen to his staff, who only have the best wishes for the future of the university at heart. The academic staff are not asking for anything extra (in fact they are willing to turn down a lot): they just want to maintain their current working conditions.
The vice-chancellor wants Auckland to be the number one university but he is taking the university in the opposite direction if he continues down the course he has set us on. By opposing the vice-chancellor's agenda staff are defending the quality of their work and the reputation of the university.
Read the Tertiary Education Union's media release here