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April 3, 2006 | by  | in News |
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AUS seeks MECA

The Vice Chancellors of New Zealand’s universities have been served with notices to initiate the multi-employer collective bargaining by the Association of University Staff (AUS).

Negotiations have already been occurring at a Tripartite Forum between the government, unions and the New Zealand Vice Chancellors’ Association (NZVCC). Salient understands that the NZVCC and the unions are together looking for the government to fund a ten percent pay increase for academic staff and six percent for general staff. AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly has said that there will be no point in using the negotiations with universities to undercut the tripartite forum.

According to Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh, the cooperation between the Vice-Chancellors and AUS was due to a memorandum of understanding agreed to after last year’s pay settlement. He believed that the two groups had a much better understanding than last year as they had been having continuing talks over the past six months. The cooperation has been due to a common belief that the country’s universities are under-funded in comparison with universities overseas and that university salaries are the first priority from increased government funding due to the loss of staff overseas where salaries are significantly higher.

Department of Labour statistics also show that forty-eight percent of university or higher education lecturers and tutors vacancies could be filled adequately within eight to ten weeks in 2005. This has dropped from seventy-four percent in 2003, when a fill-ratio of lower than eighty percent is regarded as a shortage.

Kelly says Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen has acknowledged the problems of under-funding. Both Walsh and Kelly are unsure of the government’s commitment, with Walsh saying they were “cautions” with no commitment and Kelly saying that they were “hopeful that there would be money in the budget.”

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