Staff at the University of Auckland stopped worked for four hours last week and stood together to call on the Vice-Chancellor to offer union members a fair and equal increase in pay.
TEU members voted to go on strike after Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, remained intransigent in his opposition to a flat rate pay increase, fair pay for professional staff and the Living Wage for the lowest paid.
Hundreds of staff and students gathered alongside the university library at 10am in the scorching Auckland sunshine to hear from TEU national president, Sandra Grey, and branch co-president Josanne Blyth about the seven months of negotiations that had led to the strike.
Staff heard that McCutcheon had rejected a fair and equal increase in pay on the basis that it would not maintain the purchasing power of staff in the same way as his preferred percentage increase.
Staff also showed their frustration at the Vice-Chancellor’s efforts to curtail TEU members’ influence by suggesting that discussions about a flat rate increase should start only once a new collective agreement was in place, when it would be illegal to strike.
Staff then spent an hour making banners before leading a march that attracted significant support from students and passers-by.
Hundreds also took to Twitter to show their support for staff with many urging the Vice-Chancellor to return to negotiations and agree to the TEU’s proposed flat rate increase in pay.
Green MP and Tertiary Education spokesperson, Gareth Hughes, published a blog backing the strike action and called on McCutcheon to pay all staff enough to meet rising living costs.
“Thank you to all those staff that took the difficult decision to come out on strike. We know it’s not easy but it is important that we stand together and support each other,” Enzo Giordani, TEU organiser at Auckland University, said.
“TEU members have spoken so it is now up to the Vice-Chancellor to return to the bargaining table and agree to a settlement that delivers an equal pay increase and the Living Wage for all union members,” Giordani said.
The call for the Vice-Chancellor to return to negotiations received unanimous backing in a resolution adopted by the staff on strike.
Shortly after the march, Auckland University Students’ Association President, Will Matthews delivered a speech explaining why it was so important to students that staff at the university were paid fairly.
“The student-staff relationship is one of the most important at any university and the very least we can do is ensure that they are paid fairly,” Matthews said.
One student later told Stuff that “better paid staff means better quality education and happier students.”
“Having the support of students means a huge amount to our members. It’s fantastic to see they are right behind our campaign for fair pay and that they support the action members are taking,” said Giordani.