PBRF Game-Playing, Casualised Academic Labour and Widening Pay-Gaps for General Staff.

Despite nine meetings between your unions and the employer since June, including one with a mediator from the Department of Labour, there has been little progress towards a settlement.  Our employer has consistently said 'NO' to each of our claims, even minor claims that cost nothing.  This stands in stark contrast to other New Zealand universities where employers and unions have quickly settled collective agreements on reasonable terms, including some of the same cost-free claims we have put forward at Auckland.

If our employer continues to reject all claims, there seems little doubt that our conditions at Auckland will slip steadily behind those at other Universities. Your representatives on the bargaining team believe this is of great concern to all union members.

What are the key issues at stake?

  1. A fairer pay system for general staff - Other NZ universities have some incremental salary steps for non academic staff. At Auckland, salary increases for general staff  have been paid out increasingly as one-off bonuses for some,  leaving less for increases to base rates across the board General staff want a structure with annual increments (like academics).
  2. Equal working conditions for all academic staff. The employer is seeking to include a 'new category' of academic staff called Professional Teaching Fellows in the Academic Collective Agreement. Like most Senior Tutors, staff in this category will be employed to teach but not to conduct research. We believe all academic staff performing comparable duties should have the same terms and conditions. We have successfully negotiated improved offers of leave entitlements for these staff – comparable to those for Lecturers and STs – but the employer insists on a new salary structure for them: no annual increments, and advancement at the discretion of the line manager alone without negotiated criteria. Ask your General staff colleagues how they feel about such a model.  The employer's stated rationale is to 'provide a career path for esteemed teachers', but since June over 100 PTFs have been employed on individual agreements; 99% on contracts of less than 12 months, exempting them from PBRF, and 60% at the lowest salary level, only slightly higher than ST4. Is this a career path? Or an effort to dodge PBRF while building a pool of casualised academic labour?
  3. Parity with other New Zealand universities in terms of annual leave. University of Auckland provides the least amount of annual leave of all New Zealand universities.
  4. A statement agreeing to the maintenance of university procedures for all new staff appointments rather than the application of the 90 days fire at will bill currently proposed .
  5. A reasonable pay offer for 2011.

These claims are not radical or unreasonable; they are an attempt to achieve parity with other universities maintain it for academic staff performing comparable duties within our own workplace.  On most claims, there is room to negotiate on detail. We have one more scheduled bargaining meeting in December.  If we hope to shift the employer on any of these issues,

We need you to show your support for our claims

in a visible way.  Here is what we need you to do:

  • reply to the email TEU sent you indicating your support for our claims and our bargaining team;
  • place the ribbon that TEU sent you on your clothing, office door, bulletin board, etc.
  • circulate the notice that TEU has sent around regarding the VC's pay offer to non-union members and discuss with colleagues why it is important to keep terms and conditions inside our collective agreement.

The value of active union membership.

Maybe you do not think you need to get involved, because your own conditions are OK right now.  But spare a thought for your colleagues, and for how your own conditions came about. Through negotiation the Tertiary Education Union in its former incarnation as the Association of University Staff and Association of Staff in Tertiary Education has won in negotiations:

  • a salary model based on incremental steps for academic staff in the lecturer grades;
  • a consistent and transparent promotion policy for academic staff, protected in the Collective Agreement;
  • clauses in the Collective Agreement that give academics the right to apply for research and study leave, and provide access to professional development leave for Senior Tutors;
  • procedures to protect staff during restructuring;
  • redundancy compensation in the event staff lose their jobs;
  • two additional days of leave for most staff;
  • health and safety benefits;
  • University paid parental leave;
  • eye tests for staff engaged in VDU duties for at least 50 per cent of normal working time;
  • defined hours of work and overtime, weekend and night rates for general staff and enhanced public holiday provisions.

These conditions of employment are generally as good as those at leading North American universities.  They help to maintain a university that operates in an atmosphere of collegiality and as a community of scholars; that is, a university that does not run on the basis of favoritism and the individual singling out and 'driving' of staff.  Furthermore, these conditions are either located in our collective agreement or are in identified university policy linked to the collective agreement where university management cannot change them without negotiating with you as union members.

Last year, university management presented a range of claims that aimed to remove many of these conditions from the collective agreement and locate them solely in policy where management could change them at will. We successfully resisted those 'clawbacks'.  This year, in management's rejection of our claims, we see a determination to narrow the scope of our collective agreement and undermine the effectiveness of our union with potentially dire consequences for our working conditions and the ideal of a university which many of us believe in.

From your TEU/PSA Negotiation Team