University staff to vote on strike action.

Te Hautū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union members at all eight of Aotearoa’s universities attended a series of paid two-hour union meetings today, and almost unanimously asked for sector-wide strike action ballots to be held for each of their collective agreements. Collective agreement negotiations have been ongoing across the university sector since July, with an 8% pay rise the main focus of union claims.

Te Pou Ahurei Takirua – Ahumahi | Assistant National Secretary – Industrial, Irena Brörens says “our members want a real pay rise that meets inflation, reflects the indispensable work they do and begins to address the reprioritisation of university spending away from people and into buildings.”

Data from BERL, published by the TEU a month ago, shows operating expenses across the sector grew by 18% in real terms between 2008 and 2020 while staff costs only went up by 7% over the same period.

TEU Branch President at Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington Dougal McNeill says “it’s energising to see union members so strong and unified across the Aotearoa university sector.”

“Staff worked incredibly hard during the pandemic to keep tertiary education going through a national crisis. Over the past two years we have had to deliver classes both online and in person which effectively doubled what for many were already unmanageable workloads caused by persistent cost cutting and underinvestment in staff. We are in no mood to take an effective pay cut on the back of that.”

Irena Brörens put tertiary employers on notice as far back as April when she said “Aotearoa universities have been, for the most part, reporting healthy surpluses in recent times and with the New Zealand economy in a strong position, with good GDP growth, pay increases that match the rising cost of living are affordable for New Zealand. This year we won’t be accepting the impact of COVID-19 as an excuse for low pay offers.”

Today, Brörens adds “by all university members taking action together we can make a strong statement to employers and the government that enough is enough.”

TEU members at University of Auckland, AUT, University of Waikato, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, Canterbury University, Lincoln University and University of Otago will decide whether or not to take strike action in an online ballot next week.