Friday, November 12, 2010

The University of Auckland creates two classes of staff

[We've all seen images of the recent massive demonstration by students in London, and of the spectacular assault on the headquarters of the Conserative Party by a militant section of that demonstration. In New Zealand, too, education is becoming a battleground, as both the central government and some local managers use the global economic crisis as justification for cuts in funding to institutions and for cuts in pay for educators.

The scrap between the National government and the Post Primary Teachers Association has enjoyed plenty of media attention, and was analysed interestingly in this article by Chris Trotter, but there is also a confrontation developing at the University of Auckland, where management is frustrating staff by refusing to agree to a variety of claims, and by failing to offer any pay increase at all for 2011. This post by Skyler reproduces a press release she helped write for the Auckland branch of the Tertiary Education Union...]

Auckland University has hired over one hundred academics in the past few months under lesser terms and conditions than their colleagues doing the same work. This new casualised category of staff, Professional Teaching Fellows (PTFs), are mostly on fixed term contracts and do not progress incrementally in salary like other academics. The new PTF category effectively replaces the Senior Tutor position.

“Academics are increasingly losing our job security,” says Dr Joce Jesson, Principal Lecturer at the
 School of Critical Studies in Education and member of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) Branch Committee at The University of Auckland. “It is unfair for the university to employ people doing the same work on different conditions,” Dr Jesson adds.

Union members have been negotiating for two months for PTFs to have the same employment rights and conditions as other academic staff.

So far the University has refused.

Other issues union members want addressed through the bargaining include parity with other universities in regards to annual leave and some incremental salary steps for non-academic staff.

“We are a leading university but in terms of some significant working conditions of staff we lag behind other universities in New Zealand,” says Dr Paul Taillon, Senior Lecturer in History at The University of Auckland and TEU bargaining team member.

“After nine meetings with our employer we are no further ahead in our negotiations than we were on day one,” says Cerian Wagstaff, co-president of the University of Auckland branch of TEU, “the university has basically said no to every one of our claims, even those that don't cost any money.” The University of Auckland is out of step with the rest of New Zealand’s universities and is the only one still a long way away from reaching an agreement with its staff.

“The other universities have settled, or are close to settling, their collective agreements on reasonable terms in an atmosphere of collegiality. It is clear that those employers see the value of engaging in meaningful negotiations with unions representing their employees,” says Dr Taillon.


If you want to find out more about how the Collective Agreement Negotiations are going at The University of Auckland and the issues they are facing you can follow the links below.

Find out about the terms and conditions of the new Professional Teaching Fellow position:

Watch the University of Auckland 2010 Collective Agreement Negotiations update video at

Find out about the unions' Fair Pay model for general staff at
Here is a link to an article by Dr Joce Jesson about churn and academic labour:

ABSTRACT: 'Using the background of a visit to North America, this article considers the symptoms of change in the university labour market of the global knowledge economy and raises concerns for those working in higher education to consider for the future. It discusses university outsourcing, and the work of academic staff. It ends by suggesting that academia needs to go back and reclaim the ideals of the university as a community of scholars and teachers.'


Blogger nommopilot said...

What kind of doublespeak is "professional teaching fellow"? Oh, it's kind of like a teacher only more professional and with added fellowship...

10:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

about time the british took a leaf from the french book and showed their anger at the elite's cuts by using some argy-bargy. the people who created this economic crisis are making the education sector and some of the most vulnerable pay for the idiocy and greed of the financial sector. fuck em.

11:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps good quote from britain

'We can’t look at France and Greece and fail to see what can happen in Britain. If you wait for the official bodies like the Labour Party and the TUC it will never happen here for the very reasons you write. It took the students to lay down the marker. It took Bob Crow to suggest civil disobedience is the tactic. Let’s hope that next year it is 500,000 and the coalition shatters. Don’t wait for Ed Miliband to lead the action, it’s never going to happen.

Paris 1968 should be guide. Then the workers didn’t wait for the CGT or the Socialist Party. New leaders will rise out of the conflict. I was heartened by what I saw on TV of the student protest.'

11:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


'The poll tax wasn’t routed and Thatcher turfed out by 50,000 holding hands and singing Kumbaya in Hyde Park, it was turned back and she was evicted on account of the terrified reaction of the men in grey suits to burning Porsches and other property in St Martins Lane and thereabouts after that one afternoon in Trafalgar Square.'

11:25 am  
Anonymous Edward said...

I agree with anon, the business elite and their greed caused this mess, why should education and other core services and the vulnerable have to suffer?! From the Guardian Weekly I just read an article that executive pay is up 55% in Britain in this 'age of austerity' while education is being cut. (Whatever happened to so-called 'trickle down economics'?) Another article detailing the rise of unregulated private investment markets and the dangers therein. People are angry but it seems like no justice is forthcoming. Here in NZ, like Britain, it appears we no longer value research and good academic staff. Yet we'll bale out finance companies and pay through the nose for a rugby game and a tent on a wharf.

11:34 am  
Blogger maps said...

'Whatever happened to so-called 'trickle down economics'?'

I remember seeing an exhibition of work by Richard Killeen a decade or so ago which included, in addition to the cryptic assemblages of insects and birds and abstract motifs which that artist is usually associated with, a series of drawings attacking neo-liberal capitalism in various ways.

One drawing showed a bloke in an expensive suit standing at the stop of a ladder - did it have greased steps? - and pissing down on someone wearing much more modest clothes. It was labelled 'The trickle-down effect'.

11:53 am  
Blogger Skyler said...

The government has also said that they want to link funding to institutions based on employment outcomes for students. They also appear to want more links between business and universities. This will lead to the marginalisation of the Arts and Humanities and the traditional model of a university as the critic and conscience of society.

This year we have already seen major restructuring in tertiary institutions as well as redundancies this has lead to staff working harder with less resources.

The government has said they want a more flexible tertiary system which means the casualisation of staff, downsizing and restructuring will continue in the sector unless the country stands up for our education system.

Education at all levels is vital for a healthy society we should protect it ahead of most other things.

12:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most staff in the tertiary sector have had pay increases of less than the rate of inflation over the last 18 months.

Auckland Uni's VC is refusing to make a pay offer to union members across the table for 2011 BUT he has just received a pay rise of about $50,000 (about the average annual wage a non academic staff members at his institute)! How is that fair?!!!

The VC needs to start listening to his staff and respecting the unions that represent them.

12:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that Auckland uni is supposed to be the number one uni in the country?!

obviously not in the way it treats its staff!!!!!!

12:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can auckland university justify paying one group of people differently and on worse terms and conditions for the same work?!

12:47 pm  
Anonymous Edward said...

"link funding to institutions based on employment outcomes for students....more links between business and universities.... [which] will lead to the marginalisation of the Arts and Humanities and the traditional model of a university as the critic and conscience of society."

Couldn't agree more. This measuring education's worth by vocational ends alone is ignorant and incredibly short-sighted. What can I expect from a government full of predominantly business graduates though?

12:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emboldened by the numbers who took to the streets of London to campaign against plans to charge university students in England up to £9,000 a year in fees, students are planning a wave of direct-action protests across the country.

Protesters occupied a building at the University of Manchester today, demanding access to accounts to see how government spending cuts might affect students and staff.

Grassroots student groups said today that they were drawing up plans for a national day of action in two weeks' time. Michael Chessum, co-founder of the National Campaign Against the Cuts, predicted widespread disruption as students staged sit-ins, occupations or walkouts at universities and further education colleges on 24 November.

"We went off script, the script that said a few thousand people would turn up, complain a bit and go home and the cuts would go through pretty much as planned," said Chessum, 21, a sabbatical officer at University College London. "That has changed. Now students really feel they can stop this."

A statement published by student leaders praised the storming of the building housing Conservative party headquarters by a fringe group of protesters on Wednesday. "We reject any attempt to characterise the Millbank protest as small, 'extremist' or unrepresentative of our movement. We celebrate the fact that thousands of students were willing to send a message to the Tories that we will fight to win. Occupations are a long established tradition in the student movement that should be defended."

1:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

national/act tells us we have to tighten our belts, ie pay for the crisis its friends in the private sector created, and yet its own ministers have their snouts in the trough...

look at wansy pong

1:32 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

'The Tertiary Education Union announced today that it has negotiated that any new staff hired at Massey University will not be subject to a ninety day fire-at-will provision. Massey University has committed that, even if the government’s introduces its proposed new employment laws which deny workers their basic personal grievance rights in the first ninety days of work, those laws will not apply to staff at Massey University....'

Read more about how Massey University is leading the way in regards to terms and conditions for its staff and is an example of how workers and employers can work productively together:

1:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much to the horror of the Tories, some lecturers are supporting the student occupation of Tory HQ:

1:43 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Staff at UoA just want parity with other universities in terms of, a) a fairer pay system for non academic staff - one that includes annual salary increments (academics have incremental steps and all other unis in the country have at least some incremental steps for non academic staff); b) equal working conditions and terms for all academic staff (professional Teaching Fellows must have the same conditions as their colleagues doing the same work; c) parity with other NZ unis in terms of annual leave (UoA has the least amount of annual leave for its staff compared to other unis).

So far UoA has said NO to all the unions' claims - including those that don't cost anything like protecting employees from the ninety-day fire-at-will provision and formalising union access into the collective agreement.

The unions have done their best to move the negotiations forward - withdrawing claims, prioritising claims etc and the UoA management still seems to not want to negotiate in any meaningful way with the unions representing their staff. It feels like the UoA is doing only the bare minimum to engage in good faith bargaining.

The UoA seems to want to undermine the union at every opportunity possible.

2:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The real vandalism is not a few Millbank windows broken, but £9,000 fees destroying the dreams of many young people going to university" - John McDonnell MP

3:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Zealand's leading university? Yeah right!

(or maybe its staff are leading but it's VC is way behind).

5:36 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Great to see students protesting in France and Britain.

You are doing great work there Skyler. Hopefully we wont need to go as far as the British etc

I recall that once education and academia was honoured as something intrinsically valuable. Science the arts, and all the other disciplines were (still are?) there not only for personal growth, or for careers (which is great reason of course) etc but for people simply to learn about the world.

11:55 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Richard,

you make an important point, I think, about the importance of looking at education in non-utilitarian terms. Skyler is the expert, but part of the union's beef with the U of A VC and the government is with the obsession with quantifying everything and trying to make various subjects 'business-friendly'.

This was one of EP Thompson's great bugbears, too: during his seventeen years as a teacher for the Workers Education Association he argued relentlessly that adult education should be about enriching the mind, not cramming in information or increasing worker productivity...

12:09 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - my father went to the WEA and while he was relatively conservative in politics (he always supported National) - he met Mason, Fairburn and others, and also there were lectures there by Sutch. Now he believed in University Education ( and learning for its own deep sake as I do) almost to the point of snobbery, but he always said that scientists and others at university pursue knowledge for its own sake. That always fascinated me - the idea of people working or being paid to simply explore or learn and teach.

That perhaps was an ancient Greek ideal. We had it once even in British Unis and Thompson was right in principle...of course there IS a utilitarian aspect, there ARE realities out there; science and engineering and business et al are needed (I studied Accountancy once through Massey, and I enjoyed it; a poet or an engineer needs to know more than literature or how machines work; and there are the other ares of history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, music, art and art history; and much else we need to explore; but ancient history (which I also studied), doesn't stop me studying business practice or management); or mathematics, one of my units for my BA was Maths 1! [but that was nightmare and is story on its own to tell one day!! But I have studied Latin, biology, chemistry, electronics, physics and applied maths, and other engineering and science subjects and I believe this wider knowledge has fed into my writing and enriched it; ergo a scientist or an economist could benefit from literature, and The Arts etc)],...but (or and) these disciplines actually benefit from the Arts and so on. That is it has been for a long time recognized by the (more or less conservative-enlightened (?) bourgeoisie or the "Middle Roaders", that a holistic education is of great benefit to business and the wealth (material and or psychological or "spiritual") and happiness of people. We progress not only by direct means. And we don't NEED to be fixated on economic "returns" for education. That I hate. I heard hints of this outside pressure on the Uni Faculties, in the otherwise mostly excellent speeches by Professors in the Science Department, when my daughter graduated MA in Psych (Health Science).

Universities, educators, writers, artists...all of us whatever we do are vital. But none of this romantic "outside the walls" stuff for me...Sure, certain individuals writhe alone* as I do more or less - but then I went to [various]Tech institutes, High School etc, Correspondence Schools, and Auck Uni), but for me universities and schools etc are vital to our whole life. Like a vein system of phloem & xylem in a tree - essential to the whole tree (society). Thompson was deeply right.

Muldoon's reductionism was very simplistic (I actually don't think he believed himself BTW, it was for image, for votes from red necks and those engrossed in pure "economism" ); this tendency is seen in the Left and the Right. Many in the putative Left cant see why you are wanting to promote Smithyman for example.

*Of course there is a case for being outside the walls! But there is always a wall, and even if we are 'autodidacts', we are in a sense "being taught": i.e. by the very act of reading one is being taught; as when one is when using a computer. And 'being taught' or 'self teaching' is interactive. (No one can be an island self.) In any case it is not an "either or" thing.

11:05 pm  
Anonymous Edward said...

wise words Richard, you put well what I was thinking.

1:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL everyone who attended Auckland Uni in the past few years wont be surprised to hear the latest development.

That VC is a real piece of shit!

5:26 am  

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