By Jessica Hopkins (she/her)
In response to Tertiary Education Union (TEU) members at all of Aotearoa’s universities striking for an 8% pay rise in line with inflation, the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) said they would continue to prioritise students’ welfare and academic standing.
In a Facebook post, AUSA stated that the strike is not something they can ignore as it has a significant impact on teaching and learning.
“The wages of staff have absolutely nothing to do with a students’ association, but the fact that this has an impact on us regardless of the choice of action chosen by the TEU, makes it AUSA’s business.”
AUSA acknowledged the hard work of academic and professional staff over the past few difficult years, and said they support a negotiation that will satisfy staff to avoid disruption for students around exam time.
“We hope to see a fair common ground being met between the TEU and the University as soon as possible to minimise the effect this has on students.”
However, many called for AUSA to reconsider their stance and stand firmly in solidarity with staff.
UoA alumni, Justine Sachs, commented “What on earth does this mean? You’re a student union, you should be in solidarity with staff unions. Their working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”
Otago University staff member, Brandon Johnstone added, “Sad to see a student ‘union’/association with all the political backbone of a wet paper towel. This should not be ‘something you can ignore’ it should be something you engage with!”
“Staff are people who aren’t students. UoA employs a tonne of students as GTAs and TAs: they are also impacted by the University’s shitty decision making. I urge you to reconsider your stance AUSA.”
Psychology Master Student, Sarah Morrison, also spoke out against AUSA’s response.
“This is absolutely horrendous. As a student I am fully against your decision, we should be supporting our staff union. Downsizing departments, staff layoffs, wage stagnation, and poor student services affect us and our staff! This has all been done with Covid as an excuse despite the uni generating RECORD PROFITS over the last three years (read the financial report it’s all there)!!! Absolutely horrified that you’re not supporting the staff in light of that, our university was meant to be a public institution for public good and education—not run like a private corporation for profit!!!!”
UoA Student, Spencer Barley, said, “I can understand that AUSA may be trying to maintain neutrality, but I can’t help but feel that this is a missed opportunity to express solidarity and support for the professional and academic staff who often make large personal sacrifices to support students, are often comprised of students, and whose wellbeing (financial, mental, and emotional) directly contribute to student’s academic performance, which you have decided to prioritise. This is fundamentally a student issue, and I would simply urge the AUSA exec to reconsider their position.”
AUSA President told Craccum that they stand by the claim that a student association has no business in what staff are being paid.
“We absolutely agree that staff should be paid more (especially those who are on the lower end of the scale like GTAs and TAs), but we are a student association focused on student issues and when I say we have no business, I mean we don’t have any decision-making power in what happens.”
“There has been a lot of confusion about the intentions with which we wrote the post, but the fundamental is that yes we agree with the striking.”