TEU Tertiary Update Vol 14 No 43

Column – Association of University Staff

Whitireia settles TEU members have successfully negotiated a collective agreement at a third polytechnic that was part of the old ITP MECA. The Whitireia New Zealand Collective Agreement was ratified, at a stopwork meeting this week, with 98 percent …

Whitireia settles

TEU members have successfully negotiated a collective agreement at a third polytechnic that was part of the old ITP MECA. The Whitireia New Zealand Collective Agreement was ratified, at a stopwork meeting this week, with 98 percent of members voting in favour of the new agreement. 

TEU national advocate Irena Brorens says the real benefit for members, apart from finally getting a pay rise after such a long time, is that they are back on a collective agreement after nearly a year of being on individual agreements. 

“It has been a long and difficult dispute with Whitireia, in a tough political environment.  We’re glad it’s over and people will finally get some more money before the end of the year.

Union members and the polytechnic have agreed to a two year term with a pay rise of two percent  and a $1500 lump sum payment pro rata for the first year and two percent for the second. As at Unitec, duty hours will change to 37.5 hours a week and some discretionary leave will be converted to time that Whitireia can direct. (One week per year from next year and a second week from 2013 for some employees). Whitireia will compensate union members with an extra 2 percent pay for each week converted from discretionary leave, and Whitireia will not direct those weeks for classroom teaching duties.

“We believe that this is the best settlement we can achieve in the current circumstances and with the history of this long dispute,” said Ms Brorens.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. 28 jobs go in ‘rightsizing’ exercise at MIT
  2. Campaign softens cuts at Aoraki
  3. Students oppose TEC cuts to pre-degree funding
  4. Other news

28 jobs go in ‘rightsizing’ exercise at MIT

Anxiety is high at Manukau Institute of Technology with every department and faculty announcing “rightsizing” reviews over the next fortnight. The chief executive announced in September that he would undertake reviews across the whole polytechnic, starting with the senior leadership team. But it is only now, at the busiest time of the academic year for many, that he is announcing which staff the restructuring will affect.

There is a sombre mood among TEU members. At one meeting where the dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Trades announced his proposal to cut 17 positions, a Price Waterhouse Coopers representative, who is ‘assisting’ in the restructuring, greeted the dean with an expressive thumbs-up as members were leaving the meeting, adding insult to injury.

As well as the 17 job losses in Engineering and Trades (after already losing seven last year), there are six proposed job losses in the Faculty of Business (after already losing 12 at the end of 2010), and five in Nursing and Health Studies. Several faculties are still waiting for their announcements. TEU is not aware of what these announcements will entail other than beingbeen advised that Human Resources is one of the few areas flagged for increased staffing.

TEU is conducting a survey about the reviews, the responses to which are clearly demonstrating members’ anger and frustration with both the process and content of the “rightsizing” project.

“It is chaos at MIT at the moment,” said Chan Dixon, TEU organiser, “and unfortunately members do not have a high degree of faith that the three-week consultation period will bring any positive changes.”

Two key frustrations are that the reviews are based on a reduced budget in each Faculty, which is not open for consultation, and that one of the key factors ‘informing’ the proposals is the ITP sector Tribal Data, which TEU members are not being provided on the grounds of confidentiality. TEU members are meeting with the chief executive on Friday to discuss these issues.

Campaign softens cuts at Aoraki

TEU lobbying and campaigning has saved several programmes and nearly half the jobs originally proposed to be cut at Aoraki Polytechnic. However, TEU organiser Kris Smith says cutting programmes across its five campuses is the wrong decision. Aoraki was initially planning to cut twenty diplomas or certificates affecting 20 staff and hundreds of students. 

The decision it announced this week means that six of those programmes will survive, as will nine jobs. 

Ms Smith told the Timaru Herald staff were “gutted“.

“They think [the polytechnic has] made the wrong decisions, and it’s narrowing the focus too much.These foundation courses are exactly what the polytechnic should be doing,” she said.

Members were disappointed that the lower-level computing programmes in Timaru, Oamaru and Ashburton were not continuing next year, especially as there were no similar programmes in Oamaru and Ashburton, Ms Smith said. “We think they should have kept many more of the courses,” she said.

The Timaru Herald editorial was scathing of Aoraki’s management of the issue saying the chief executive Kay Nelson, “invoked the glorious language of modern management to assure the public the course trimming ‘will build stronger synergies between sport and fitness and outdoor recreation across our Christchurch and Timaru campuses’. We can’t wait to see them.”

“But something more is needed. The passage of a vote of no confidence in Ms Nelson by 110 union-member staffers early last month – and their call on her to enter into mediation with them – attests to a fractious relationship between staff and management. This can’t be conducive to building stronger synergies.”

Students oppose TEC cuts to pre-degree funding

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) is disappointed that the Tertiary Education Commission has decided to cut all funding to pre-degree courses previously offered at universities around New Zealand. This decision has already affected students in the Wellington region through Victoria University’s decision to close its Certificate of University Preparation (CUP) Programme.

Because there are no alternatives on offer in 2012, this now means that students wanting a second chance at higher education in the Wellington region will have no options available to them, said VUWSA president Seamus Brady.

“Victoria (along with other universities that have cut pre-degree courses) risks creating a negative image amongst New Zealand’s most marginalised groups. These groups should have the right to ‘get amongst the best’ and should not be deterred because of educational inequalities they have experienced that may have been beyond their control.”

VUWSA believes the closure of the CUP programme will significantly deter many students from higher education.

Mr Brady said the closure of the CUP programme clearly signals to prospective students that unless their secondary schooling experience has prepared them for university, or they have a degree already, higher education will simply be out of reach for them.

“This has the potential of creating an ‘elitist’ conception of university. It also has the potential of denying the many attributes that ‘mature’ students bring to the campus in particular. In many senses it narrows the education path of people to a predefined, rather archaic way of looking at education.”

Other news

Is there really no money available for tertiary education “in the foreseeable future”? The fourth in TEU’s series of election charts about what is going on in tertiary education – TEU

A long-running employment agreement dispute at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology could soon be resolved with a staff vote on a revised offer. About 200 TEU members at CPIT have been protesting against moves to extend teaching hours and cut leave. When negotiations reached a stalemate last month, both parties entered mediation and CPIT presented a revised offer. TEU organiser Phil Dodds said CPIT’s new offer was a “win-win” for both sides. – Christchurch Press 

New Zealand’s top science and technology honour has been won by a woman for the first time. Christine Winterbourn from Otago University has been awarded the Rutherford Medal by the Royal Society for discoveries in free radical biology – Radio NZ

The UK Conservative-led government is introducing primary legislation that paves the way for full-scale privatisation of the higher education sector despite a lack of public support. There is a need for a multi-level campaign to stop this as it will destabilise and tarnish the entire sector – University World News

The New Zealand lamb processor, CMP, a subsidiary of ANZCO Foods, has brutally locked out 111 workers at its plant in Marton, New Zealand, in order to force them and their union, the New Zealand Meatworkers Union, to sign off on pay cuts and unacceptable changes to terms and conditions. Send a message to ANZCO Foods demanding an end to the lockout and a return to the bargaining table – IUF

“The singing sirens of Lorelei have distracted ITPs from time to time. Those sirens have come in the guise of degree teaching and research and just like those women of the Rhine, have lured the providers onto the rocks. The search for parity of esteem is not simply a desire to be the same, and where technical and career providers have attempted to pursue a sameness with universities, the result has been rather threatening to the mission of the very provision of the kinds of education and training that mark the ITP providers as being different from the university.” – Stuart Middleton

“If you hear [in the discussion of the Transpacific Partnership trade agreement] echoes of light-handed regulation that brought us leaky buildings, Pike River, finance company collapses and weak liability for oil disasters like the Rena, and new subsidies and labour laws for Warner Bros to keep the Hobbit in New Zealand, you are spot on.” – Dr Jane Kelsey in the New Zealand Herald

Authorised by Sharn Riggs, Tertiary Education Union, 8th Floor, Education House 178-182 Willis St, Wellington 6011.

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day.

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