“We are fighting for our workers rights and fair working conditions” - TEU strikes amidst negotiation deadlock
Interview by Spike Keith, adapted by Joe Wickins
Photo credit: Tertiary Education Union
Members of Te Hautū Kahurangi, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) from Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland, have taken strike action.
Academic staff stopped work from 1:30pm on Wednesday 1 March until 12:30pm on Thursday 2 March, as students returned to classes during orientation week.
TEU Members continued their calls for better conditions and pay as negotiations between the unions and the University remain deadlocked in a dispute that has been ongoing since October 2022.
This strike came after a stop work meeting on February 17, where TEU members at the University voted to continue their campaign to progress collective agreement negotiations.
Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March, who was in attendance, highlights that the University is making really problematic proposals to staff around retirement, which he says will really affect their wellbeing.
“It’s so clear being here on the ground that both the staff and students recognise that they need fair pay.”
The Tertiary Education Union have also outlined a number of demands including a fair pay deal that matches the rising cost of living and inflation, no removal of hard and long fought union rights from their collective agreement, as well as no translocation of sections of the agreement into policy so the University can change it.
A member of the TEU adds that they're also trying to prevent the dismantling of the union.
“Some people will not get a cost of living adjustment at this University. We are fighting for our workers rights and fair working conditions.”
Additionally, the Union member also says professional staff members, maintenance workers and gardeners do not receive the full cost of living adjustment if they are deemed to be underperforming staff members, which is an opaque performance pay review system.
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University of Auckland staff went on strike again as negotiations between Unions and University management continue to be deadlocked. The University, after downsizing during the pandemic, reported a one hundred million dollar profit in 2021. With many staff unhappy with how they're being treated by management. A group ofa few hundred academics, lecturers, grad teachers and other staff gathered outside the Uni clocktower, before marching through campus, demanding better pay and benefits for workers. We spoke to various people at the march to understand their demands and the conflict between workers and university management.
What is the union currently asking for from the university?
We're asking for a fair pay deal that matches the rise and minimum wage of 7.2 percent, we're also asking them to not remove long, hard fought for union rights from our collective agreement, we're also asking them translocate sections of our agreement into policy where they can change it without our agreement in the future. We are also striking to prevent the dismantling of our union. We are also striking because professional staff members, maintenance and gardeners will not receive the full cost of living adjustment if they are deemed to be underperforming staff members, using an opaque performance pay review system. Some people will not get a cost of living adjustment at this University.
What is the University currently proposing to change in the agreement to staff?
The University is making really problematic proposals to staff including around retirement. Which is really going to affect the wellbeing of the staff here, and it’s so clear being here on the ground that both the staff and students recognise that they need fair pay, the university is instead basically calling the neogtiations that the union is leading, referring to them as a cyclone to that level. So we're basically here to stand in solidarity with the staff and the students as well.
How are teaching staff affected currently by the agreement that's in place?
Right now staff in Auckland that are unionized are making five percent less per pay period than staff that are not unionized, so the university is actively punishing people for being apart of the union, and that's because we want to actually bargain, we don't want to be told what the terms are and sign them otherwise we wouldn't be members of a union.