Low settlements don’t save jobs.

Hau Taki Haere | Tertiary Update Vol 28, No 07

By Irena Brörens, Te Pou Ahurei Takirua – Ahumahi | Assistant National Secretary – Industrial

As negotiations get underway to renew 90% of our Te Hautū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union collective agreements, there is likely to be a lot of pressure on our members to accept low pay offers.

Having spent recent decades overseeing our Industrial Strategy, this is nothing new. I have rarely heard an employer commence negotiations by saying they have a surplus and they wish to ensure that staff will receive a pay offer that reflects their worth. Instead, they always tell us they are in a bad financial position despite having high reserves, and that any excessive pay demands by our members could result in job losses. We should never let this stop us from seeking what we are worth.

Yes, the current political environment is challenging and yes, the tertiary sector is underfunded. But wage and salary costs must go up the same way all costs go up. Any financial difficulties institutions might be having are not the fault of staff. Suppliers and providers contracted to institutions have put their prices up and so must we.

We cannot forget that throughout history, advances made by workers have always been opposed by employers with threats of job losses. These sorts of threats were used to oppose equal pay for women, the introduction of annual and statutory holidays and even recently when unions won the right for care workers to be paid for sleepovers. “Our businesses will go bankrupt”, they said. Of course, doomsday never arrives.

During the COVID pandemic, some employers convinced staff to cut pay and/or hours of work to keep their jobs – in every case it made no difference to job losses – only to people’s take-home pay. As always, the only people who get hurt are the workers.

There might well be more redundancies in our sector this year but, if there are, they won’t be because our members expect to be compensated for their rising costs. Job losses in our sector are caused by employer decisions and governments not valuing our sector the way they should.

Enrolments are up in Te Pūkenga, universities are making surpluses and investing hundreds of millions of dollars into capital expenditure instead of staff.

Don’t accept employer spin, or their first offers. Remember, being in a coordinated union negotiation campaign across our sector will give every member a sense of being part of a movement of over 10,000 workers pursuing a fair deal together.

Also in this update:

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