Friday, February 18, 2011

The Money or the Bag

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

Visit the Money or the Bag campaign website to find out more


Anonymous Edward said...

The VC has been pushing the 'run a research institution like a bank' agenda for a while now. I guess it's part of the ludicrous 'business model' being rammed into a research setting. Good on the staff for standing up and saying 'no'.

11:52 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. Universities are places of learning. They are sacred as such. They should string that University boss up. He's probably an ACT man.

9:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't you people get the message.

The country is BROKE.

12:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, they aren't asking for money!!

12:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a worldwide struggle by workers aainst neo-liberalism and arrogant autocrats like McCutcheon.

The workers of Wisconsin have taken to the streets in their tens of thousands to stop union-busting laws, and the workers of Egypt have sent them solidarity:

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link the fight against neo-liberalism at the university of Auckland to the fight in Britain, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, Wisconsin...

Report from the Battle for Wisconsin
Submitted by Nick on February 18, 2011 - 11:25pm

This is a report from a Madison comrade, Andrew, who has been heavily involved with the protests there. He makes great observations on the culture of the protests, how such movements are organized, contradictions between the labor bureaucracy and rank-and-file workers, and all kinds of other stuff you definitely won't learn about in the mainstream media. This was written late Thursday, February 17.

* * * * *

First, I think we're all shocked at what's happening here. There's obviously been a build-up to this point, a few test battles in union-busting public sector workers and of course the (democratic) legislature stalling out and then rejecting state contracts, but the pace at which things have proceeded this week is mindblowing. Walker introduced the bill on Friday with intent to get it passed Wednesday, which pissed people off even more than the contents of the bill already had.

Second, protests have definitely gone above and beyond what union leadership had planned. Monday's action was called by the graduate student union (TAA) to deliver valentines to the governor, "I love my university, don't break my heart", followed by a strict lobbying plan. The day then kind of fizzled. The union bureaucracy has been lagging behind workers here. The number of handmade signs are roughly equal to mass produced placards, with all kinds of witty takes on pop culture and Wisconsin traditions, but the actions workers are taking are definitely directing how things are shaping up here. The mood is increasingly confident and the sense of solidarity here is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Madison feels radically different and working class issues have hegemony for the moment--a few examples: two plumbers in the bathroom talking to each other, "This isn't about parties, its about the working class,"; walking downtown people all over are watching tv reports in the streets and discussing what this means for working people while cars honk approvingly at AFSCME members crossing the walk. Firefighters in uniform led demonstrators by bagpipe to a municipal building to get support for a motion to ratify municipal contracts now should the bill pass; they were cheered the whole way through. At the capitol tonight, workers chanted "We are Wisconsin!" and "Union!", and to me they're speaking about the kind of unionism represented by the solidarity in the room, not just collective bargaining. Signs are everywhere in support of the public unions, and businesses that want solicitation have all catered to workers in one way or another. Even emails from liberal-progressive groups I get daily are taking a very different turn, coming out strongly for workers and looking for ways to empower the unions. WORT, the community station, has been covering the bill and the protests around the clock, airing testimonies of workers and most all of their music is labor or struggle themed.

Lastly, things are getting more militant day by day.

1:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard is right. Lay siege to McCutcheon's offcie in the way the workers of Wisconsin and Egypt are besieging their bosses.

1:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Can't you people get the message.

The country is BROKE."

I suggest reading posts before commenting. Or anything outside of the NZ herlad or the economist. I find it helps.

8:14 am  
Blogger Richard said...


"Can't you people get the message.

The country is BROKE."

I suggest reading posts before commenting. Or anything outside of the NZ herlad or the economist. I find it helps.


That's why John Key et al just got whole lot of new BMWs at about NZ$200,000 each. So now they bash women (mothers, the most important people) who have young children and others who are in need. National Party or Nazi Party?

This issue is wide...the university thing is symptomatic and it is not confined to NZ. We could take to the streets as they do in say North Africa.

'The economies are in trouble..' -translates into the capitalists Z, Y, and Z ... instead of making say 100 billion a week are making only making 80 billion a week...(choose your currency and your business and your country...)

There is plenty of money and is all simply in the wrong hands... and it is mismanaged or siphoned off.

Wages are too low
and public utilities and also universities and much else are deliberately underfunded.

This Auckland Super City is a massive joke...a chance for a lot of people to get a very nice slice of the ratepayers' cake and sit on committies and talk crap.

This general attack on workers AND students and academics AND beneficiaries AND Unions of all kinds AND others is something we all need to unite on and fight against.

And it is related to worker and people struggles world wide...

7:45 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

The Herald has run a story today:
Staff are not jeopardising anything, the VC is by refusing to negotiate and backing the union into a corner where they have no choice but to take action. The union/staff are the ones defending the quality of teaching and research at the university. They are willing to turn down 4% salary increase to protect key terms and conditions in their contract that enable them to provide the best teaching and research. Does NZ want to fall even further behind Australia?! If the VC carries on in this way it will be his fault that UoA can not attract quality staff any more. We aren't asking for anything new - just want to keep current terms and conditions. We are open to negotiating but the VC has refused (he's taken a take it or leave it position which is unfortunate). Stop trying to bust the union Stuart and come and talk to us - we want this fixed quickly (and it can be)!

10:41 am  
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2:58 pm  

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