Clothing protest in UCOL action over pay

23:00, Feb 06 2014

UCOL staff will wear red as a sign of solidarity next week, as pay negotiations languish at the polytechnic.

The move follows a two-hour protest last week, where hundreds of UCOL workers across the North Island went on strike calling for fairer pay.

Academic and support staff picketed outside campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton on January 30, at the same time as UCOL's annual meetings looking at the academic year ahead.

The strike action was spurred by a breakdown in negotiations between the Tertiary Education Union and the polytechnic, which said there would be no across-the-board pay rise this year.

The union wanted a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

Union spokesman Stephen Day said that next week staff would come to work wearing red dress in a show of unity against stagnating discussions.


It would be action aimed at the employer, not students, hoping this would re-ignite talks before the start of the academic year at the end of the month, Mr Day said.

The union was considering more industrial action, which includes work-to-rule or a withdrawal of goodwill, if the call to resume pay negotiations continued to be cold-shouldered.

UCOL chief executive Paul McElroy has declined to comment on industrial action or on pay negotiations.

UCOL spokeswoman Christine Beech has said the polytechnic respects union members' rights to take action, but it is not in a position to offer a pay increase because of well-documented funding cuts from policy makers.

UCOL's 447 equivalent fulltime staff received an $800 one-off payment before Christmas.

Union deputy secretary Nanette Cormack said the payment was a bid to bypass bargaining, quieten querying workers and it eroded the real value of salaries.

The polytechnic had previously told the union there was no available revenue for a pay rise.

UCOL has made three one-off payments since 2010 collectively worth more than $1.12 million.

Concerning the latest one-off payment, the polytech said it became aware of the money only after bargaining stalled and it needed to be spent before the New Year.

UCOL union branch president Tina Smith said there was a lack of transparency around pay, workers felt undervalued and overworked and there was an unfair disparity between Mr McElroy earning nearly seven times what a low-wage UCOL worker earned.

According to the States Services Commission, Mr McElroy earns more than $260,000, and the lowest salary position covered by the union earns $37,500.

The union wants negotiations to resume but UCOL has said it is unsure whether that will happen.

Manawatu Standard