The Vice-Chancellor of the Victoria University of Wellington, Professor Grant Guilford has been told by the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) to come clean about his plans for the future of the university after all staff were sent an email recently inviting them to apply for voluntary redundancy.
The TEU has sought a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor to discuss the email.
Coming as a surprise to both staff and the TEU, any staff member who has 15 years or more continuous service with the university as at 29 March 2019 can apply for a voluntary enhanced leaving package.
No consultation with staff or the union has taken place to determine what levels of staffing are needed in order to meet students’ learning and research needs.
The absence of due process, or an obvious plan for restructuring the university, has left a huge question mark hanging over exactly what Professor Guilford is planning for the university. If significant numbers of staff leave without consultation, and are not replaced, such a poorly planned exodus would be likely to have a substantial negative impact on the working conditions of staff.
The obligations of good faith and for the Vice-Chancellor to be a good employer mean that he should have consulted with staff and their unions ahead of this announcement, including giving the rationale behind such an offer.
This rationale is significantly absent from the announcement. There will also be students enrolling for next year who will almost certainly be asking themselves if the course they want to study will be affected. If the plan is to cut expenditure on staffing, this cannot be achieved without affecting students’ education, the TEU warned.
Nanette Cormack, deputy secretary of the TEU, said: “It beggars belief that the employer would make this offer without first discussing with students, staff, or the local community what it means for teaching and research at the university. Staff are understandably concerned about having to make a decision about their job with no information about the future structure of their workplace, and no chance to have a say on what would work best for the university and its students. Based on how the university intends to manage this surprise offer, it is simply not possible for staff to make an informed decision about what is right for them and their families, but also what is right for the students they have dedicated 15 years or more to teaching and supporting.
“Students themselves are also going to be asking their own questions about what a potential university-wide loss of jobs means for their studies. They’re bound to be looking at their options for next year wondering if their course is going to be one of the ones affected by this apparent restructure by stealth. The VC needs to withdraw the email immediately and commit to a proper review of university structures, involving full consultation. The current way of proceeding, if not checked, will have a profound negative effect on the university and chilling effect on morale throughout the remainder of the university.”