Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has dropped its controversial redundancy plan - for now.
After its bungled handling of plans to make 170 staff redundant, which resulted in it losing a legal challenge, affected staff have now been guaranteed their jobs for at least six months.
In a letter sent to staff yesterday and seen by the Herald, AUT vice-chancellor Damon Salesa confirmed the redundancy withdrawal.
“This withdrawal means that your employment continues under the same terms and conditions including salary,” he said.
But if staff wanted to seek voluntary redundancy they could do so within the next seven days.
“We appreciate that this has been a difficult time, and we deeply regret the situation and its impact.”
Tertiary Education Union organiser Jill Jones and branch president (AUT) David Sinfied said in an email seen by the Herald that yesterday’s meeting with the university had been “positive”.
AUT had “apologised unreservedly” for the impact that the process had on the affected parties.
The academic change proposal for Group 1 (dated September 6, 2022) had been withdrawn and those staff remained employed, they said.
“If further change is contemplated for academic staffing, no change proposal will be issued before July 17, 2023.”
They said the parties would cooperate and in good faith work together as appropriate in relation to work allocation and restoring the relationship between them.
AUT would pay the union’s legal costs.
“It’s been a long hard road, but this is a good and fair outcome.”
Last month, AUT was fined $3000 for breaching a compliance order by Employment Court and told to start its redundancy plan all over again.
AUT planned to cut 170 academic staff in a bid to lower costs by $21 million or more, citing the impacts Covid-19 had on central government funding and revenue from international students.
The university offered staff the opportunity to apply for voluntary severance, of which 90 accepted, leaving 80 positions to be disestablished.
It tasked four major groups of faculties with reducing the numbers of staff in each sector by varying amounts according to its student number trajectories, programme closures and investment in strategic priorities to ensure sustainability, the university had said in a statement.
The Design and Creative Technologies department was tasked to reduce its staff by 50, and the Culture and Society and Te Ara Poutama department by 40. The Business, Economics and Law department and the Health and Environmental Sciences department were tasked to reduce by 30 each.
Staff were told on December 1, 2022, about the termination of their employment by severance from February 1, 2023.
The TEU successfully took its case to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) claiming the university had not determined which positions it identified as “surplus”, nor called for voluntary severance of the employees potentially affected.
An AUT spokesperson earlier said redundancies were necessary because of the reduction in student numbers and the financial challenges the university needed to address.
“Our collective agreement includes requirements additional to those of legislation and the court judgement has clarified that, enabling us to determine the way forward.
“We hope to engage constructively with the TEU to effect the changes we need.
“We appreciate that this is a challenging time for our staff and we are seeking to resolve these matters to provide everyone with clarity.”