Working conditions an impediment to ITP success, Minister claims

Posted By TEU on Apr 19, 2018 |

Tertiary Update – Vol 21 No 8

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) should be allowed to renegotiate conditions of work so staff can be used “more efficiently,” according to a paper agreed by Cabinet Ministers last month.

Written by Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, the paper says ITP collective agreements are not flexible enough because, he says, they stop people from working longer hours and are a barrier to ITP bosses wanting to reduce staff costs.

The Minister used this argument to persuade other Cabinet members that existing terms of employment are an impediment to the success of ITPs, and could be renegotiated. The Minister’s suggestion is not only bizarre, given that collective agreements are negotiated by the union regularly, but also appears to contradict this government’s commitment to improving union rights and respecting institutional autonomy.

Outlining an approach to reform of the ITP sector – a Tertiary Education Commission led project – the paper discusses possible options the government could take to reverse the decline in student numbers. However, rather than opening a broad conversation about what might be causing the decline and how the sector can work together to resolve it, the paper puts staff squarely in the government’s crosshairs.

The paper also rules out any significant change to the funding model, despite sector leaders, students and staff all agreeing at a recent forum on the future of the sector that this was one of the primary problems facing ITPs.

Institutions themselves are also in the firing line, with the paper implying throughout that mergers are under consideration.

In the paper, the Minister said he is also exploring recent transformations in the technical and further education sector in Australia. He said he is interested in two systems in particular – those of Victoria and New South Wales – to help inform the reform of the ITP sector here.

Alarmingly these changes have led to major cuts in staffing – 44 per cent in Victoria and 35 per cent in New South Wales.

“This paper reads to us like a threat to the foundation of a quality, accessible tertiary education sector – the hard-working, dedicated staff that put in time, energy and skill into ensuring students get the best possible learning experience,” Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union, said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently launched a national conversation about the future of education, saying she wanted to hear a range of voices before changing the way people study and work.

Whilst the Minister does say in the Cabinet paper that he wants a discussion about a range of issues – including staffing – by identifying employment conditions as a core problem early on, he is clearly setting the parameters within which this conversation should take place.

TEU is preparing a letter telling the Prime Minister why Chris Hipkins’ analysis of the challenges facing the sector is wrong, backed by hundreds of examples proving collective agreements are the cornerstone of quality public education.

Union members will also have the opportunity to share these directly with the Minister early next month when he speaks at their annual conference in Wellington.

“Jacinda Ardern has recognised that we all benefit when people are trained and educated. To ensure all New Zealanders have access to quality education, no matter where they live, or what background they have, the Prime Minister needs to be reminded that our conditions of work are students’ conditions of learning,” Grey added.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Staff call for greater representation
  2. Ministry sets out plans for VET review
  3. Union fears government will ignore lessons of failed TAFE reforms
  4. TEU members celebrate general staff

Other news

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has released the terms of reference for the Early Learning Strategic Plan – Beehive

University of Auckland academics criticise management’s planned library restructure – NZ Herald

From next year Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand will start offering a Montessori based Level 5 Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care – Voxy

The University of Otago Council recently received information showing that the university achieved its best research results for four years – ODT

The University of Otago is the first New Zealand university to sign the international SDG Accord pursuing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – University of Otago

The Auckland University of Technology has opened a new Centre for Indigenous Rights and Law – AUT

Some institutions are seeing significant falls in international student numbers, while others are seeing increases – RNZ

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