TEU wins promotions case against University of Auckland vice-chancellor

Posted By TEU on Jun 20, 2013 |

Tertiary Update Vol 16 No 20

The vice-chancellor at the University of Auckland does not have the right to review academic staff promotions criteria without involving TEU members, is the outcome of an important Employment Relations Authority decision this week.

TEU won its authority case against the vice-chancellor on Wednesday, when the authority found that the vice-chancellor engaged in a review of promotions criteria before he informed the union, and that he was obliged to inform the union of his intention to review policies.

The case revolved around the 2010-11 collective agreement negotiations during which a stalemate between TEU members and the vice-chancellor broke when both sides agreed to take important employment policies relating to promotion criteria, research and study leave, and outside activities out of the collective agreement. They replaced those policies with clauses requiring the participation of TEU members in any process to review the policies.

Following that agreement the vice-chancellor continued a review already in process of the university’s academic promotions criteria. He consulted overseas universities and his deputies and deans (VCDD) for several months before notifying TEU. In 2012, he told TEU branch co-president Paul Taillon that he did not want to start a fresh analysis of the current policy and that his preference was “for the review to seek feedback on and consider a proposal that I have developed in collaboration with the deans.”

The review proceeded on the vice-chancellor’s terms, and without any TEU involvement. TEU challenged the process by which the vice-chancellor developed his new policy and advised its members that they were still covered by the old policy not the vice-chancellor’s new one, which the union considered illegitimate.

The authority found that the collective agreement binds the vice-chancellor to inform TEU of his intent to review a policy, and that obligation arises prior to any review commencing. It also found that is not what the vice-chancellor did.

Paul Taillon says the decision defends important employment rights for TEU members.

“The clauses we negotiated into our collective agreement in 2011 say just what we believed they said when we drafted them. Those clauses give our members at the University of Auckland real assurance that employment policies cannot be changed without their participation in the whole process.”

Paul Taillon says the decision means that all TEU members are and always have been covered by the existing Academic Grades-Standards and Criteria policy.

“However, as an issue yet to be decided, non-members who are not covered by the collective agreement may not be afforded that privilege.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Government bill to overturn employees’ right to info
  2. Insecure work survey highlights growing job casualisation
  3. Strike breakers bill needs Peters’ support to progress

Other news

Marion Macneil from TEU’s Massey branch was elected as the CTU’s Komiti Pasifika women’s representative at the biennial CTU Fono last week – photo of TEU delegates at the fono.

As colleges begin using massive open online courses (MOOCs) to reduce faculty costs, a Johns Hopkins University professor has announced plans for MOOA (massive open online administrations). Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg, author of The Fall of the Faculty, says that many colleges and universities face the same administrative issues every day. By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically. Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education. – Minding the Campus

Universities across the country have reported decreases in the number of postgraduate students attending their institutions, according to Greens MP Holly Walker. Enrolments at the University of Auckland were down by 273 or 7.1 percent, while in Otago they were down by 308 or 8.5 percent. Student advocates are blaming the decrease on last year’s budget, which removed postgraduate eligibility for the student allowance – Craccum

In an historic move, Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) voted today to spend AU$1 million on an election campaign to defend higher education in the September federal election – NTEU

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