Court tells TOPNZ its 34 hour weeks for union members

Posted By TEU on May 27, 2010 |

Tertiary Update, Vol 13 No 19

The Employment Court has found that a staff member at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand who subsequently joined the union was entitled to work 34 weekly duty hours as specified in the collective employment agreement, rather than the 36 hours he earlier agreed to in a letter of offer and acceptance of employment.

Chief Judge Colgan rejected the Open Polytechnic’s appeal against an earlier authority finding in favour of the union member. He said that for the polytechnic’s case to succeed the court would need to ignore a clause of the collective agreement, which specified that any previously agreed terms and conditions of employment cease to apply on the day on which the employee becomes bound by the collective employment agreement.

“The court cannot, for reasons of convenience, ignore clear and not otherwise explicable provisions of a collective agreement…. [Where] an employee elects to exercise his or her statutory right of union membership after employment commences, the Open Polytechnic is bound then to apply the 34 hour working week to such an employee, and if it wishes to increase this to 36 hours, must renegotiate that with the employee concerned.” This clause is unique to the Open Polytechnic collective.

The result means that all TEU members at the polytechnic now have a 34 hour working week.

TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs says the decision highlights the need for employers to comply with collective employment agreements and not rely on internal interpretations of how new staff are offered employment.

“The decision has reinforced the value of collective bargaining and a strong union membership.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. More investment in skills to address staff shortages
  2. TEU Massey members defend right to know reason for redundancy
  3. Progress on gender pay gap requires more than words
  4. Can institutions buy and sell treaty claim assets?
  5. Diplomas led to healthier, happier women

Other news

Staff at the University of Otago College of Education fear a cost-cutting restructuring proposal announced yesterday will result in poorer-quality programmes for teacher trainees.Staff called to a meeting yesterday were “stunned” to hear 23 of the group of about 70 teacher educators are likely to lose their jobs by the end of 2012, Tertiary Education Union southern organiser Kris Smith said last night – Otago Daily Times

The Government has backtracked on a promise of $11 million funding for a New Zealand School of Music, throwing the $60m project into doubt. Victoria and Massey, the two universities behind plans for the proposed school near Wellington’s Civic Square, say they are still planning the project but need outside support to build it – The Dominion Post

“Collaboration” is the new buzz word among tertiary institutions. Aoraki Polytechnic islinking with the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand to offer business degree study from Timaru, BOP Polytechnic  has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Waikato to develop and deliver health and healthcare related teaching, and Lincoln University and Telford Rural Polytechnic continue their merger plans.

Sir Wira Gardiner has been appointed by the government to chair the Tertiary Education Commission, an organisation with a $3 billion budget. The New Zealand Herald understands the Cabinet confirmed the appointment of Sir Wira, husband of National MP Hekia Parata, last week. He has been called on as a fix-it man for both major political parties in the past, and his appointment could signal more emphasis on cost savings and quality control in the tertiary sector – New Zealand Herald

Global private education provider Navitas will slash staff numbers at La Trobe University’s International College by at least a third, with the loss of 43 or more jobs. The Melbourne-based university will have to pick up the redundancy costs under its deal with Navitas to privatise the business – The Australian

There is both a demand and a need for the Centre for New Zealand Studies in London, according to a review instigated after the decision to close it. The centre at Birkbeck College, University of London, was set up in 2007. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the New Zealand government and Birkbeck, and the New Zealand government donated £100,000 to the centre in April 2008. But last autumn, less than three years after its opening, Birkbeck announced its intention to wind down the centre. Despite international criticism of the move, the centre’s library was disposed of and its staff sacked – Times Higher Education Supplement

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email:

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