Call for pay rise from funding boost

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 07:35 06/05/2014

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More than $1 million in restored funding could be used to fix the salary stoush at UCOL, the Tertiary Education Union says.

Ongoing industrial actions, including strikes, rallies, Wear Red events and public forums, have been spurred by a stalemate between UCOL and the union over the lack of an across-the-board pay rise this year - the union wants a 2.5 per cent increase.

At meetings in March, union members overwhelmingly rejected the polytech's offer of a salary increase of up to 2 per cent depending on whether additional government funding was given, calling it "maybe money".

Members also turned down the offer of two additional days' paid leave over the Easter-Anzac period, which staff were later given by management as a "a well-deserved break" for workers.

UCOL has argued it was not in a position to offer a pay increase this year due to well-documented funding cuts from policymakers, but the situation has now changed, the union says.

The Tertiary Education Commission has given UCOL $26.6m in funding so far this year, according to figures provided by the polytech.

This was up on the $26.5m it had budgeted for, but down from the $28.5 given last year.

But another $1.1m additional funding has been given to UCOL above its planned payments for this year, UCOL spokeswoman Jean Archer says.

This followed talks with the commission and was in recognition of a high number of enrolments in the first semester and improved course completion rates from last year, she said.

In an email to staff, UCOL chief executive Paul McElroy said he was "thrilled" funding would be restored - he had told staff earlier in the year UCOL would be down $2m due to funding constraints.

But management had received news that some of UCOL's funding would be restored following talks with government officials.

"The result of our discussions was that overall our funding for 2014 has been reduced by $900,000 compared to 2013, rather than the $2m we reported to you earlier [but] this means we have managed to restore $1.1m as a result of our efforts," McElroy said.

"This is a great help and we will now move to finalise our budgets and activities for the year."

The extra money would be put towards "general educational delivery costs", such as teaching resources, student support, student materials and student and teaching equipment.

The union says if the polytechnic has more money, then it is time for a long-anticipated pay increase.

TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack said the polytech's first priority needed to be resolving the drawn-out industrial dispute. "Other polytechnics are giving their staff real pay rises. UCOL is not."

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UCOL had tabled an offer to make a proportion of any government funding recovered available for salary increases and remained open to bargaining, Archer said. Cormack said $1.1m was a significant amount and called for the polytech to offer a worthwhile wage boost.

- Manawatu Standard

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