By: Michael Neilson

Auckland University of Technology students will have to go another two weeks without some of their final assignment marks, with many in the middle of exams.

Since October 19, Tertiary Education Union (TEU) members have not been releasing student marks to AUT as part of strike action over collective negotiations.

TEU members have been negotiating for a minimum of the living wage, $20.55, to be paid to the university’s lowest-paid staff from January 1 next year, and a 3 per cent increase for those on collective agreements.

The strike was due to end today but TEU members voted to extend it after rejecting AUT’s latest offer, which the union said would see the living wage introduced over the next three years and a 2 per cent general pay increase.

TEU national industrial officer Irena Brorens said their members had “overwhelmingly” rejected the latest offer.

Three years was too long for their lowest-paid members, some of whom were on $17.50 an hour, she said.

“You can’t live in Auckland on a wage like that, and the majority of our members feel very strongly about this.

“Many employers, including Auckland Council and government sectors, are paying the living wage, so why shouldn’t AUT?”

Brorens said they acknowledged AUT had responded to their strike with an improved offer, but it did not go far enough.

Recently more than 1000 staff and students signed a petition calling on
the vice chancellor to pay staff the living wage.

The union had been in touch with the Auckland University of Technology Students Association, who had been “supportive”, Brorens said.

“They are a living wage employer, so they understand why we are doing this.

“We are aware it could have an impact on students, but they can always go to their lecturer if they are concerned about how they are going, or about the exam process.”

AUT people and culture group director Beth Bundy said the university had presented TEU and the Tertiary Institutes Allied Staff Association (TIASA) with a “revised improved offer” on Monday.

“AUT considers this a good offer which is at the top end of current offers in the sector.

“The offer will also achieve the removal of rates under $20.55 for all employees.

“Unlike some other sectors, the university sector has not received additional government funding for salaries.”

AUT was seeking a future date to continue negotiations, Bundy said.

AUT vice-chancellor Derek McCormack said the timing of the strike action was concerning.

“We are concerned that one union, the TEU, is conducting strike action designed to affect students at a time when they should be able to fully focus on their final exams and assessments.

“We are taking all practical steps to minimise the impact on our students including providing marks to students verbally on request.

“At this stage the strike action will not affect the ability for students to graduate in December.”

Source: NZ Herald

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