A big year nears its end.

Hau Taki Haere | Tertiary Update Vol 26, No 22

We’ve made it to the last Tertiary Update of 2022! As is our tradition, we’ll be rounding off this volume with an overview of our ten most read stories of the year.

As you would expect, our campaign for a real pay rise in the university sector features large, but it did not overshadow other equally important mahi such as keeping Te Pūkenga honest, holding the government to account for their inadequate tertiary spend, coming together for our annual conference, changing our rules, celebrating our successes, and mourning our losses.

Over the course of 2022, TEU has significantly grown our membership. We are a stronger union with your presence and we can’t wait to continue working with you in 2022 to keep the momentum going and continue to improve our sector.

1 – It’s time to vote

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our number one most read Tertiary Update story of 2022 was a call for as many as 7,000 of our members to vote in a nationwide strike ballot.

TEU branch co-president at Massey University, Te Awatea Ward said “any strike vote is a collective democratic decision that will affect everyone and participation is an obligation all members have to one another. Please make your voice heard whether you support the potential strikes or not.”

And the rest, as they say, was history. Eighty-seven percent of TEU members who participated in the ballot voted to strike, and kicked off one of the most significant campaigns for our sector in almost 20 years.

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2 – University heads in the sand over staff pay

At the end of August, Universities New Zealand responded to BERL data that showed Aotearoa’s university staff have been undervalued by their employers over the past twelve years, by arguably reinforcing the point TEU was making.

Te Pou Ahurei | National Secretary Sandra Grey said “instead of trying to explain away solid data, Universities New Zealand would be better advised to revisit our offer to work with them to secure more funding from the government. University staff will not be happy with their employers both denying the problem exists and refusing to work with TEU on constructive ways forward.”

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3 – Three universities to hold ratification ballots

Just two weeks ago, at University of Otago, University of Canterbury, and Victoria University of Wellington, TEU members voted in ratification ballots to decide if the offers made by their employers in collective agreement negotiations were good enough to accept.

Te Pou Ahurei | National Secretary Sandra Grey said “we have reached this point in our campaign to lift pay settlements in the university sector because we have seen movement in some employer offers. This has occurred because coordinated, nationwide strike action has had an impact and because some of the improved offers will result in 14-17 percent pay rises over the next two years for the lowest paid workers on our collective agreements.”

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4 – TEU 2022

Our Annual Conference was held in May and, as a potential taste of things to come when co-governance is written into our rules, was jointly chaired by Hūhana Wātene and Julie Douglas in a successful demonstration of what the Te Tiriti relationship can and should be. It was also the scene of an address by Minister of Tertiary Education Chris Hipkins the day after Grant Robertson’s Budget 2022 speech.

The Minister thanked delegates for their considerable contribution to the COVID-19 response, but went on to say “The Budget won’t have quenched all of your aspirations but I do think we need to acknowledge the extraordinary times.”


5 – Minister and TEU must back Te Pūkenga

In July, a memo was released by Te Amorangi Mātauranga Matua | The Tertiary Education Commission that caused fear and confusion amongst staff at Te Pūkenga. It highlighted concerns with the organisation’s financial deficit and a handwritten note in the margins by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins demanded that cost savings be found.

Tumu Whakarae | National President Tina Smith cautioned that the memo and the kaupapa that underpins it was representative of old thinking. “We can’t go back to a corporate model that failed staff and students. We must NOT revert to the failed tactic of cutting staff and courses to balance the books.”

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6 – No wellbeing for tertiary education in Budget 2022

Budget 2022 was another disappointment from a government that has failed to meaningfully invest in tertiary education.

Te Pou Ahurei | National Secretary Sandra Grey was gutted. “Through successive governments, tertiary institutions have cut staffing to the bone year after year in order to combat inadequate funding. Under National, tertiary education was ignored entirely and since 2017 the Labour Government has failed to increase funding adequately enough to plug the gaps. The result of this has been staff stretched past breaking point as more and more of their colleagues walk out the door – either redundant or burnt out.”


7 – University bargaining underway

Negotiations to renew the eight university collective agreements got underway in mid-July.

Te Pou Ahurei Takirua – Ahumahi | Assistant National Secretary – Industrial, Irena Brörens said “employers should expect our claims to reflect the current economic conditions, including the rate of inflation - the highest we’ve seen in 32 years.”

The government was firmly in the union’s sights as well, with Te Pou Ahurei | National Secretary Sandra Grey noting “staff have had to bear the brunt of constant funding cuts that have left fewer and fewer people doing more and more work. It’s time for the government to fund tertiary education properly and for employers in the sector to give staff a real pay rise.”

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8 – TEU mourns the loss of Cat Pausé

TEU was heartbroken in late March when the news came through that we had lost long-term member and former Vice President Women, Cat Pausé.

Tumu Whakarae | National President Tina Smith said at the time, Cat “did a power of work as a union activist including taking on national positions, putting together fabulous conference panels and running women’s leadership days as well as being incredibly supportive to many people. She lived her scholarship, calling out attitudes or actions that reduced people while, through her warmth and actions, encouraging better.”

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9 – TEU award winners

As always, awards were handed out at TEU Annual Conference in May, to recognise meritorious service for our members who have gone above and beyond both for their union and our sector over the course of their careers.

Victoria University’s Susan Ryall and Stephen Blumenfeld received a joint Award of Excellence for Professional Integrity, Canterbury University’s Warwick Anderson received Life Membership, as did Massey University’s Cat Pausé (posthumous).

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10 – Meet Stephen Town

The TEU ran a series of online fora with the leadership of Te Pūkenga over the course of 2022. The first was a Zoom hui with then Chief Executive Stephen Town at the end of February.

The fora were the first of their kind in our sector. Never before had the leader of a major tertiary provider been prepared to front up and answer questions from union members up and down the country in major events such as these.

Read more….

Other stories:

Te Ira Tangata Issue 3 – TEU

Auckland Uni students still awaiting exam results due to staff strike – Stuff

'Huge distress': Post-grads students feel impact of AUT staff cuts – RNZ

Otago, Victoria, and Canterbury universities have accepted pay deals, union says – RNZ