Tertiary institutions could suffer from unfair employment laws

Posted By TEU on Aug 5, 2010 |

Tertiary Update Vol 13 No 29

TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack is warning that proposed new employment laws could, if misused by employers, have a significant impact in the tertiary education sector.

“The 90 day fire-at-will law that the government wants to extend to cover large workplaces is inconsistent with existing trial and confirmation periods that already exist in some polytechnics and universities,” said Ms Cormack.

“For instance, many academics need, as part of their career progression, to move between institutions as they develop their skills and knowledge. Under the new law, each time they do that they will put themselves at risk of being fired without reason.”

“And will our universities, which employ around half their academics internationally, still be able to attract such staff if they think they might get the sack within their first few months in the country?”

Ms Cormack also says that up to now there has been a convention that TEU and other union organisers have enjoyed relatively open access to tertiary institutions.

“This has contributed to a comparatively harmonious employment relationship where employees know they can access independent professional advice efficiently and safely. But the government’s proposed changes could end that practice, leading to problems festering and exploding rather than getting resolved.”

Requiring a sick leave certificate for just one days illness is also not practical in an a tertiary education setting, says Ms Cormack.

“When you are in a lecture theatre with hundreds of students who all share the same ‘flu virus, you can be sure that there will be more than a day’s wait to see the local or campus GP the following day.”

Ms Cormack says that TEU members are all encouraged to attend the Fairness at Work rallies in major centres on 21 August. The rallies aim to stop the proposed changes which, if implemented, will take away workers’ rights, remove protections, cut pay, reduce holidays, and diminish access to sick leave.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. 2010 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards
  2. Physio numbers to be cut
  3. Dangers in linking funding to performance
  4. Otago Uni still to cut teacher educator numbers
  5. Possible changes to Te Reo funding
  6. Gender pay gap widens

Other news

Any removal of neurosurgery from Dunedin Hospital has the potential to develop into the “death of tertiary services by a thousand cuts”, Dunedin School of Medicine dean Dr John Adams says. “We absolutely depend on a vibrant teaching hospital for teaching and research purposes.” – Otago Daily Times

The just released Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates) statistics for the June 2010 quarter show that those working in the well unionised Education and Training sector continue to survive the recession better than other workers, with salary and wage rates (including overtime) up 3.3 percent compared to a rise of just 1.6 percent for all workers. Again, one of the most significant reasons for movement in pay rates, according to surveyed employers, was the existence of a collective employment agreement in the workplace

TVNZ’s Close Up says students are the key to New Zealand’s future, but universities are slamming their doors on thousands of ‘wannabe students’. The show speaks with several students who have missed out on the chance to study this year as well as NZUSA co-president David Do and AUT vice-chancellor, Derek McCormack.

When Rio de Janeiro became the first Brazilian state to adopt quotas for Afro-Brazilian students in institutions of higher education, in 2002, black activists hoped that the country was finally coming to terms with the bitter legacy of slavery. But just eight years later, affirmative-action policies—which have since been adopted by scores of other Brazilian universities on behalf of the country’s most disadvantaged groups—could be ruled unconstitutional by the country’s Federal Supreme Court – The Chronicle of Higher Education

The British government is enthusiastic for two-year university degrees as a means to cut fee and student-support costs in higher education.  However, a newly released report says they could “disadvantage UK graduates in the global market” and prevent academics from pursuing research. –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: http://scr.im/stephenday

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