Update: The TEU has now confirmed a national vote on strike action will be held next week. All eight University branches have now voted in favour of the motion to open a strike ballot. The vote will decide on whether teritary staff union members will hold a nationally coordinated strike to increase pay in the sector.
By unanimous vote the University of Auckland branches of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) and the Public Service Association (PSA) have voted to open a strike action ballot.
This means an electronic ballot will be sent to all eligible union members, including professors, on whether they are in favour of taking national strike action.
The University of Auckland TEU and PSA branches join eight universities across the motu who are holding stop work meetings today in a campaign for better pay.
Although not eligible to vote, E Tū union members were also in attendance as a show of support.
This recent round of pay negotiations coincides with the end of previous national collective agreements between unions and tertiary education providers.
The stop work meetings come after the University’s pay offers were criticised for not being in line with recent inflation, meaning staff would be accepting a pay decrease in real terms.
Currently, average pay rise offers from Universities across the country sit at 2-3%. The University of Auckland is offering 5% in 2023 and 4% in 2024 with “claw backs”—decreases in staff benefits such as slashing long service leave and retirement benefits. Without claw backs, the University’s offer decreases by 1% each year.
The University is also offering an additional 1% pay increase for staff on salaries less than 60k per annum.
One union member pointed out that any salary less than 70k was now considered a low income, and criticised the existence of 60k per annum salaries within the University.
In an email to staff released just after the stop work meeting, the University stated that they are “aware of the financial pressures of the current economic environment and the impact of the cost of living increases on our staff, particularly in Auckland”.
The statement recounted the above offer and confirmed the “grandparenting” of benefits, meaning long service and retirement benefits will only apply to current staff, and not new hires.
UoA TEU organiser Nicole Wallace described this condition as “sell[ing] out our future generations”.
The statement from the University concludes: “We remain committed to bargaining constructively and in good faith with the unions.”
Currently, the unions wish to claim an 8% pay increase over a year to account for recent inflation.
PSA Organiser Bella Chase says they’re proud of the turnout at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika complex today.
“People are struggling, and they want to feel valued,” says Chase, who cites cost of living as one of the reasons for coordinating a national, cross-union response for staff in the tertiary sector.
“It’s time universities paid a decent cost of living pay increase, and respected and valued their staff.”
“We’ve made our position clear here today,” added Wallace.
Shortly after the decision at the University of Auckland, TEU confirmed all eight branches passed the open strike ballot motion. This means a national ballot will be held electronically next week to decide whether tertiary staff union members will strike for better pay.
Should the vote to strike pass nationally, a strike committee will be formed to coordinate strike action, says Wallace.
More to come as the story develops.