Saturday, May 30, 2009

Unitec staff very unhappy with head honchos

Sunday, 30 August, 2009

In Unison

Academic staff morale is at an all time low due to the pressures the Unitec senior executive have been putting on staff, the Unitec Council recently heard.

At a council meeting on August 10 members heard a long list of complaints complied by Unitec academic staff representative Jan Patterson. Ms Patterson says “a large number of staff have indicated that they are very dissatisfied with the management of Unitec by the chief executive and his management team.”

She also outlined the impact the problems are having and will have on students.

The comments come after academic staff members raised concerns about the proposed changes to the institution, most of them under the Sustainability Project –Unitec’s plan to cut costs and save money through a large series of restructuring across the institution.

She had comments from lecturers, managers and heads of departments.

A common complaint was staff felt they were being ignored and not included in the decision making process, that despite how much time they spend providing feedback to proposed changes, they are effectively ignored.

However, Unitec chief executive Rick Ede says he takes issue with the accusation. He says they have been very thorough with gaining staff feedback.

“We listen to every piece of input (but) listening is one thing; consultation does not mean adapting the response to every single input we get.” Staff also felt the leadership team did not understand how existing Unitec systems function, and were rushing to make big changes without thinking of the effects on staff and students.

Another person wrote “staff feel they just cannot sit powerlessly and watch how Unitec is heading towards its own destruction.” They also felt that their workloads were too high and this is at the expense of quality.

“If bosses want high school level of teaching - we can deliver that, but with this workload (it) is impossible to do research, be current and innovative and create new paradigms in areas of our expertise,” one comment said.

Further, another commented that this is causing them to lose their uniqueness and their quality students because lecturers cannot provide them with quality time necessary for learning at this level.

They felt there was no rationale behind the changes, that there has been no indication of a problem with the current situation.

Ms Patterson also brought up the need to review and evaluate the management at Unitec, with the ability to provide anonymous feedback from those who are being managed – something akin to the SEQUALS that students write on academic staff.

Staff said that the culmination of these problems felt “as if a huge train is leaving the station down a wrong track and they are still on the platform.”

Dr Ede says the Council decided to keep with the changes proposed because they are “each seen as being in the best long-term interests of students and staff.” In regards to the low morale and uneasy relationship with the senior executive, Dr Ede says he will “ensure that appropriate, ongoing communication is maintained” with all staff.

He says the low morale is because of uncertainty in the institution, but as plans start to come to fruition, morale should lift.

When asked about comments the expressed at lack of faith in he and his executive’s abilities to do their jobs Dr Ede says “every staff member has the right to express their opinion about the changes.

“I’m prepared to be judged on the record of Unitec’s performance over time as will my team.”

Of the comments that were quite personal towards various executive members, Dr Ede says they were “not appropriate, not professional and not tolerable under our Code of Conduct.”

He believes some of the comments were demeaning or derogatory. “I expect all staff to treat each other with respect and tolerance throughout such debates, and to maintain a professional demeanour. There are no grounds for anyone to turn these disagreements into personal attacks.”