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Auckland University students are standing behind staff strike action

9 December 2022 

By Jessica Hopkins and David Liwei Shi 

Listen to the interview

University of Auckland students, Izzy Renton (left) and Maria Kopilevich (right), have submitted a 1600 strong student-led petition in support of the union action of university staff. 

University of Auckland staff who are Tertiary Education Union (TEU) members, ended their ban on releasing student marks on 8 December at 7 pm, after five weeks of students waiting for their final grades. 

The University reached an agreement with the union that the TEU says will make a difference for the lowest paid staff, including staff who are also students, during the current cost of living crisis.

However, according to the union, the University has refused to include important benefits from their best offer such as retirement gratuity and long service leave. 

In response to the TEU ending their strike action, the University says that while this is good news for students, "there remain issues for negotiation between the University and the unions."

TEU members nationwide have been protesting what they say is an “unacceptable” pay offer since October. 

In an email to staff, the Vice-Chancellor of the University called the grade strike “extraordinarily damaging” to students.

University of Auckland Masters students Izzy Renton and Maria Kopilevich say communications from the University “have attempted to frame this failure as the fault of unreasonable TEU members.”

In their petition, the students are calling on the University to “take responsibility for its role in creating a situation in which staff feel they must disrupt service, or worse, leave for sectors where their expertise is valued.”

Renton told The Wire that while students were eager to receive their grades, they believe union members have had no choice but to disrupt tertiary services to put pressure on the University. 

"What we hear from students is that they want quality education, they want staff to be well-paid, they don't want staff to be stretched thin. When staff become more stretched, the onus gets put upon students to compete for staff time."

“The interests of students are in line with the interests of staff. If the University is not serving its staff and students, then who is the University really serving?"

Kopilevich says that many students work at the University and that "tutors are also very overstretched and overworked."

"We decided to get the student voice involved as much as we could. This was a way to say we are supporting the TEU and that we want to see change." 

Renton and Kopilevich say they will continue to keep their petition open for students to "express their support for staff and their disappointment with the university’s stance on this issue".

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air