Ministers accused of interfering in ITP negotiations

Posted By TEU on Sep 3, 2009 |

Tertiary Update Volume 12 Number 29

The Dominion Post reports this morning that state services minister Tony Ryall and tertiary education minister Anne Tolley have been summoning the chief executives of polytechnics that are engaged in employment negotiations to their offices.

Labour Party state services spokesperson, Grant Robertson, says that this breaches state sector pay rules. “I can’t conceive of what ‘appropriate discussions’ he (Mr Ryall) could be having over employment matters with a chief executive who is in negotiations. A reasonable person would interpret being hauled to Wellington as a clear instruction from the minister as to the outcome they were expecting.”

Section 3.16 of the cabinet manual says that ” ministers should also take care to ensure that their actions could not be construed as improper intervention in operational, or contractual decisions that are the responsibility of the chief executive, and also” that ministers should take care to ensure that their intentions are not misunderstood, and that they do not inappropriately influence officials, or involve themselves in matters that are not their responsibility.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryall said there had been no directive to the ITP chief executives about employment negotiations. “The ministers are monitoring what’s happening across the sector and have appropriate discussions with agencies as responsible ministers should.”

The” Post reports that sources said the chief executives came away from the meeting with Mr Ryall and Mrs Tolley with a clear understanding that wage settlements should be near zero.

Two ITPs, CPIT and MIT, have already settled at between 2 per cent and 3 per cent and Otago Polytechnic is still in negotiations.

“I thought it was highly unusual. I have never heard of it happening before,” Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said of the call to the August 18 meeting and the discussion about pay talks.

The paper also reports a polytechnic source stating the ministers seemed unaware of the law defining pay talk relationships and the amount of consultation that had already taken place. But Mr Ryall’s spokeswoman said ministers were fully aware that wages and conditions were matters for the chief executives.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Te Ã…ª Māori members hold annual hui
  2. Zero percent no longer reasonable
  3. Students unprepared for reality of debt
  4. Massey’s Bhutanese lose out from ‘tough decision’
  5. Israel and academic freedom
  6. Gander readies for goose’s medicine

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