Union claims UCOL pay is lagging

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 09:00 22/02/2014

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Palmerston North's UCOL is lagging behind other polytechnics when it comes to pay increases, according to the Tertiary Education Union.

The union has compared information on across-the-board pay settlements from polytechnics throughout the country between 2011 and 2014.

The numbers looked at lump sum payments and earning increases of 10 education providers from the Tertiary Accord of New Zealand, which is a network of institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs).

The findings show UCOL as the worst off, receiving 2.5 per cent of accumulated settlements over the past three years.

Whitireia Polytechnic, which has campuses in Wellington, Porirua, Paraparaumu and Auckland, received the highest amount in accumulated settlements, totalling 7.25 per cent, followed by Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) at 6 per cent.

The nearest to UCOL was Otago Polytechnic receiving 2.7 per cent of accumulated settlements over the past three years.

TEU branch president Tina Smith said other institutions had salary scales, annual increments and transparent pay progressions, which UCOL did not.

"Hence, pay rises are more important at UCOL," she said.

UCOL spokeswoman Christine Beech said the union's figures were "ambiguous and misleading".

"UCOL has a track record of making payments to staff when funds are available to recognise staff contribution," she said.

In 2011 and 2012 Whitireia staff were given a 2 per cent pay rise, last year they were given a 1.5 per cent increase and this year staff were given 1.75 per cent.

At CPIT staff were given 2 per cent pay rises in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with this year's bargaining set to start soon.

In 2011, UCOL staff received no pay rise but a $1000 one-off payment, in 2012 a 2.5 per cent pay rise and last year another $800 lump sum payment, with no increase being offered this year.

"While comparisons are always difficult as each collective is different, what is clear is that, despite tough financial times, other institutions have given pay rises while UCOL has given lump-sum payments and our salaries have shrunk in real terms," Ms Smith said.

Mrs Beech said the polytechnic had given regular base pay increases over the past 10 years, a range of one-off payments and had introduced "a new pay scale".

Ms Smith said the union would welcome seeing the "new pay scale" because a key aspect asked to be considered as part of the collective agreement negotiations was pay transparency, which a pay scale would provide.

Union members are preparing for their second strike in six weeks on March 4.

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UCOL chief executive Paul McElroy earns more than $260,000 part-time, according to the State Services Commission, and the lowest salary position covered by the union earns $37,500.

More than 220 UCOL workers across the North Island are planning to picket outside the polytechnic's campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton.

Ongoing industrial action was spurred by a breakdown in negotiations between UCOL and the union.

UCOL has said there would be no across-the-board pay rise this year because of well-documented funding cuts, but the union wanted a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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