UCOL staff union to strike

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:00 03/04/2014

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Almost half of UCOL's Palmerston North staff will refuse to work next Tuesday as further complaints about the polytechnic's employment tactics are raised.

The continuing industrial action, including strikes, protests and Wear Red events, has so far been spurred by a stalemate between UCOL and the Tertiary Education Union over the lack of an across-the-board pay rise this year.

At meetings last month union members overwhelmingly rejected UCOL's offer of two additional days' paid leave this year, plus salary increases of up to 2 per cent depending on whether additional government funding was given.

UCOL's 220 union members, made up of academic and support staff, are now upping the ante on their employer, and plan to publicise other employment issues within the polytechnic at a series of lunchtime forums on campus.

"Staff at UCOL are working hard to ensure students succeed but are no longer prepared to keep silent," UCOL union branch president Tina Smith said. "We feel we have a professional duty to speak out."

Smith said it was not just about pay conditions.

"Far too many staff at UCOL are being denied job security by being stuck on precarious fixed-term contracts.

"These cause stress and uncertainty for individuals . . . but these contracts also negatively impact on the whole teaching team and their ability to provide quality tertiary education."

The first public forum would give students and the public a chance to hear from staff about that issue and would be held at noon tomorrow in the campus's atrium.

Tuesday's full-day strike could still be avoided by UCOL offering an across-the-board 2.5 per cent pay rise, she said. The polytechnic's offer was "maybe money" and it needed to make an offer of "real money" and promise to work with the union on fixed-term contracts.

Staff would not be picketing on the day of the strike.

UCOL spokeswoman Christine Beech said she had not been told by the union that any further action would be taking place, but the polytechnic would do everything it could to minimise disruption for students.

"UCOL will remain open on Tuesday and we expect students to attend classes as scheduled. Many staff will still be at work and will want to work, because 60 per cent of staff are not unionised."

Association of Students at UCOL acting president Miranda Orpin said the ongoing effect of strike action on grades was of "notable concern" for students if it continued.

The association was staying neutral during negotiations, but students wanted an agreement between staff and UCOL.

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- Manawatu Standard

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