Employment law changes

Posted By TEU on May 17, 2012 |

Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 16

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson is proposing extensivechanges to employment law, which include allowing employers to walk away from collective agreement negotiations. Cabinet approved the changes this week and they will likely go before Parliament this year.

TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs says the changes will have a huge impact upon people working in tertiary education.

“Removing the employer’s duty to conclude bargaining is among the worst of the changes – it would mean that we would probably not now have collective agreements in place at the ex ITP-MECA branches – Wintec, NorthTec, Unitec, Whitireia, and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. It may also have prevented us resolving the long-running dispute at Auckland University last year. Under these changes the employers would have simply been able to say that they had tried their best but could not reach agreement. The effect of that would be that all our members would be sitting on individual agreements with no ability to collectively negotiate a pay increase or changes to their conditions.”

The government also intends to remove a provision that guarantees all new employees will be employed on the terms and conditions of the collective agreement for the first 30 days of their employment.

Ms Riggs says this will mean that new workers (who may not know or be told that there is a collective agreement in place at their institution) could be offered any employment conditions at all.

“We know now that employees usually stay on the conditions to which they are first appointed. If those are no longer the union negotiated conditions then new employees could be appointed on conditions that undermine the union conditions. This will enable the employer by default to introduce new conditions into the workplace – for example they could slowly erode timetabled teaching hours.”

The minister, Ms Wilkinson says that the changes are modest and pragmatic, and will increase productivity, and help create higher paying jobs.

However, the Council of Trade Unions says the changes being considered are the worst attack on workers’ rights since the 1990s and will give employees few options. The CTU says the changes would have enabled Ports of Auckland employer to walk away from collective agreement negotiations and proceed with redundancy plans.

Ms Riggs agrees.

“These law changes threaten to de-unionise tertiary education employees, and drive down pay and employment conditions. They are bad for productivity and worse for any vision New Zealand has of being a high-wage economy.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Petition to keep university councils democratic
  2. MIT nixes fundraising BBQ
  3. Budget 2012 preview
  4. Commission agrees with TEU’s PBRF advice

Other news

Tomorrow is Pink Shirt Day, an international campaign aimed to raise awareness about the power to prevent bullying. Pink Shirt Day aims to reduce bullying by celebrating diversity and promoting the development of positive social relationships.

Canterbury University students are plan to hand a petition against the proposed closure of three arts courses to vice-chancellor Rod Carr tomorrow and say they will not leave his office until he receives the document. You Are UC student group spokesperson Morgan Hodgson said that on Friday the group would hold a “petition crawl” at the university, ending up at Carr’s office – The Press

Australian National University management has backed away from its plans to ”spill” the positions of 32 of its tenured and permanent academic and administrative staff at the School of Music, bowing to union pressure to use formal redundancy provisions instead. The decision came as 1000 music-lovers crowded into ANU’s Union Court yesterday to protest against the proposed cuts in one of the biggest and loudest rallies in the university’s history –Canberra Times

Contrary to the Heraldeditorial, the biggest factor in the University of Auckland’s slip in world rankings is not student numbers. From 2006 to 2012, Auckland’s THE ranking fell from 46th to 82nd, yet student numbers increased only nine percent. At the same time, Government funding slowed to below the rate of inflation. Without proper investment, New Zealand academics will continue to move overseas for higher wages, research cannot be adequately carried out and students cannot receive the best tuition – Arena Williams and Sam Bookman

The University of Canterbury’s school of music is in crisis and needs to rapidly reverse a student decline to survive, a new report says. To fund a wages’ bill of $1.4 million, the school needed more than 180 fulltime-equivalent students. It had 85 this year. The university said yesterday there was no possibility the music school would close. “This city lives and breathes music and we know the school of music is a critical part of the music community,” pro-vice-chancellor Ed Adelson said –The Press

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