Monday, August 3, 2009

Heated Discrimination Complaint Resolved

In Unison

Unitec staff who have been picketing and marching through Unitec over what they say is discriminatory treatment from Unitec management have reached an agreement, but some are still not happy.

Allied staff members (staff who do not teach) who are part of the Tertiary Institutes Allied Staff Association (TIASA), were protesting their working conditions offered by Unitec management.

They had been protesting outside Unitec chief executive Rick Ede’s office in the mornings and also staged a march through the grounds of Unitec.
The issue was over the action Unitec took in contract negotiations. In January, non-union staff at Unitec were given a four percent salary increase, which they can negotiate in November, whereas TIASA members were told Unitec would not go beyond a two percent increase and also wanted to remove some conditions. Two weeks ago Unitec then offered a four percent increase but on a 21 month contract, which the union did not agree to.
The final offer, which TIASA agreed to last week, was an 18-month contract with a backdated four percent salary increase, and the opportunity to enter negotiations if over five percent of allied non-union members receive a pay increase on their base salary for the 2010 year.

TIASA member and allied staff representative on the Unitec Council, Kieron Millar says the outcome required both sides to compromise.

“I think what was offered required movement from both sides and really neither side is completely comfortable with where we ended up.

“Members decided it was probably better to take a bird in hand at this stage.”

He felt the march through the Unitec grounds and the morning picketing outside Dr Ede’s office was effective.

“We certainly sent a clear message to Rick and his management team that we weren’t prepared to lie down, that we did have a voice and were passionate about equity in the workplace.”

A big sentiment through the union members during the negotiations was that Unitec was trying to break the union.

“The feeling was that allied staff in TIASA were getting picked on,” he says.

“If you look at what happened through the negotiation process it could be perceived as being quite anti-unionist,” Mr Millar says.

A TIASA member who wishes to remain anonymous also felt the action was anti-union and the offer agreed to was not good enough.

She felt the union was made to reach the compromise because of other factors weighing on them, such as the economic crisis and public perception of unions.
“People are of the opinion you should be thankful you’ve got a job,” she says.

She says there were a significant number of people who voted against the offer.

“It’s not equity. The purpose of the union is to make sure the members are looked after first and all other individual contracts should follow on from the union negotiations.

“We have compromised where perhaps Unitec have not been so willing to compromise.

“We’ve done a favour to Unitec but that is nothing new. It is always on the backs of employees that these institutions survive.”

Unitec did not respond to In Unison’s questions, only stating that “Unitec is pleased to have reached an agreement with TIASA. If staff affected have any questions, then they are advised to approach their Human Resource representative or contact Chief Executive, Rick Ede.”