Wholesale changes to modes of delivery must not be made without consulting staff, says the Tertiary Education Union | Te Hautū Kahurangi.

Wholesale changes to modes of delivery – such as announced by Auckland and Massey Universities today in making in-person teaching and assessment optional for learners – cannot be enacted without reasonable consultation with staff.

TEU National President, Michael Gilchrist, says ‘These changes, for example, place huge additional workload demands on teaching and administrative staff – we will not accept that such edicts can be issued without consulting staff to the greatest extent possible under these circumstances. We are advising members that it is especially important that their workloads be reasonable, equitable and safe at this time. Consultation is a vital part of that imperative – and without it staff may be forced to take other steps to ensure their wellbeing.

‘More broadly, we believe the correct approach from institutions should be to follow the guidance of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health as to new risks and whether any additional steps are required for staff and student safety. To date the Ministry of Education has said that it should be business as usual for all educational institutions, including universities, barring any specific outbreaks. We don’t believe that either institutions or staff unions should be second-guessing this expert guidance – especially given that it is informed by advice from many of our members.’

Gilchrist notes the announcement today by Victoria University calling for institutions to be guided by Ministry of Health advice, neither moving in advance or arrears of that advice – and we applaud their offer of free study from the start of Trimester 2 to domestic students who have been impacted by COVID-19.

All these developments – and the range of responses now emerging – only serve to underline the need for a nationally co-ordinated and consistent approach on the part of tertiary education institutions to COVID -19. We have written again to the Tertiary Education Commission asking them to facilitate a meeting of all concerned to develop such an approach.

TEU members have been discussing how to ensure staff and student well-being, and how to be supportive in ways that ensure learning continues.

Media contact

Michael Gilchrist, TEU National President, 027 899 4256