Strike action pointless, university boss says

One of the country's leading university bosses says continuing strike action by staff is "pointless".

Staff from Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury, Lincoln and Victoria will walk off the job again tomorrow.

But University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said that as the universities, unions and the Government were now in funding talks, continued strike action served no purpose and was damaging to students.

His university had offered the unions all it could afford, and everyone was looking to the Government to solve funding issues, he said.

He was encouraged by the Government's "new found willingness" to invest substantial sums in tertiary education.

"Continued strike action will not achieve anything other than to penalise the affected students," he said.

He called on unions representing university staff to focus their energies on persuading the Government to invest in improving the quality of tertiary education.

The last claim made by the union had been for a 5 per cent salary increase, while Auckland University had been paying a 4.5 per cent increase in salary to staff since May 1, Prof McCutcheon said.

"That is the best offer this university is able to make. The difference between our offer and that of the claim is equivalent to about 1.25 days pay each year," he said.

"They are now striking against Auckland to claim the difference of just 0.5 per cent. Each day they strike costs them almost exactly what they are claiming."

He remained open-minded about the question of a multi-employer collective agreement, as sought by the unions, but for now did not consider the benefits would outweigh the potential disadvantages and so had offered a single employer collective agreement.

Yesterday Massey University staff postponed tomorrow's strike action after vice-chancellor Judith Kinnear agreed to discuss a national employment contract.

Otago University is the only major university to have reached a settlement, with an offer to backdate a 5 per cent pay rise and consider a national collective agreement.

- NZPA

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