UCOL students do bit for staff

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 13/02/2014
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LADIES IN RED: UCOL support staff Karen Wilkinson and Fiona Mason.

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UCOL students have shown their support to staff members fighting for better pay at the polytechnic by wearing red to class.

A smattering of red could be seen on clothing at the Palmerston North campus, as students handed out red ribbons and people tying them in their hair or to their bags.

Academic and support staff, as well as students, dressed in red to protest against the lack of progress on pay negotiations between the polytechnic and the Tertiary Education Union.

The move followed a two-hour protest last month, when hundreds of UCOL workers throughout the North Island went on strike calling for fairer pay.

Staff picketed outside UCOL's campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton on January 30.

The strike action was spurred by the breakdown in negotiations after UCOL said there would be no across-the-board pay rise this year because of well-documented funding cuts. The union wanted a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

UCOL support staffer and union member Karen Wilkinson, who has worked at UCOL for seven years, said it was time to take action.

"We know it's been tough and we've accepted that . . . but it's line-in-the-sand time."

UCOL support staffer and union member Fiona Mason, who has worked at UCOL for 12 years, said attitudes and behaviours had changed recently and staff felt undervalued.

"The idea isn't to be disruptive, rude or disrespectful - it's not to disturb students, it's really just making a point."

Vet nurse student Jamie Dorrestein said her class had grown in size from about 20 to 40 students this year and with students paying thousands in fees, simple maths meant there would be more money available to pay to staff.

"Our lecturers are amazing and they deserve to get better pay."

UCOL spokeswoman Christine Beech said the polytechnic was willing to talk to the union about employee job satisfaction, but it was unable to budge about money.

"We live in a democracy and UCOL respects the right of staff to make their views known as a legitimate part of the employment environment in New Zealand."

The union was considering more industrial action, including work to rule or a withdrawal of goodwill, if the call to resume pay negotiations were not met.

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- Manawatu Standard

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