The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Stuart McCutcheon’s odd behaviour of late has got me thinking.

Several of his public statements in regard to the industrial situation that is escalating at the University of Auckland seem to be against current employment legislation, in particular his opposition to even discuss a MECA (although this is as yet untested, the recent amendments suggest that employers must take part in discussions around setting up collective agreements, including MECAs, to be within the new good faith provisions). He has also been making collective offers to non-union staff, when the new legislation could be taken to mean that the University has to negotiate with each employee on an individual employment agreement.

McCutcheon’s actions could well open the University of Auckland to legal liability, and this is certainly a path that the union, AUS, is now pursuing.

So why would Stuey make these pronouncements? He is not inexperienced in employment matters, having been VC at Victoria for some years prior to his appointment in Auckland, and I’m certain that he is advised ad nauseum by both the HR and legal departments of the University.

To take such a risk, especially when you are quite new to your current position, seems odd behaviour and has led me to speculate wildly about his motivations. One theory (and it’s just a theory, I have no inside information) is that he could be serving “higher” masters – I wonder if there are some who want the Government’s new laws around employment relations exposed and tested prior to the General Election to swing voters away from seeing these changes as good for workers and NZ as a whole. Part of that whole “the-unions-are-growing/the-sky-is-falling” palaver that I find so irritating. I think that an institution that is part of the state, albeit at arms length, would be an excellent place to pursue this agenda – the general public are less likely to have sympathy for a corporate. And of course there are few private sector industries with enough union members to contemplate a MECA.

Anyone know if McCutcheon has any political affiliations?


Graham Watson said...

I would suggest the 30% claim might just be turning him off a bit, 4.5% is a little closer to the 5% the Engineers union have been promoting. This is probably a fair level for many industries.

While I may not agree with his tactics I am hoping McCutcheon will keep wage increases, therefore the resultant tuition fee increases necessary to pay for them as low as possible while still being fair.

Academics are paid reasonably well relative to many other sectors in our society, especially considering many of them don't know how to teach, and should be mindful of the flow on effects of overly greedy claims on student fees at a time when the government has made it clear funding will not increase.

Anonymous said...

This is completely consistent with his behaviour at Vic.

Xavier said...

Graham, the Government has made it clear that funding would increase. I don't know where you get your information from (or I do, which makes it more dubious), but perhaps you need to check it for idealogising all over the place. The AUS will not be accepting a pay increase that comes from student fee increases - only accepting it from the Government, who have indicated that they will be willing to come to the party.

Graham Watson said...

No Xavier, your govt has been vague and vacillating. They are sending mixed messages.

Can you show me where they have come out and said they will directly fund a 30 % increase in the salary of academics.

If you can I will withdraw my comment. In the absence of such you should withdraw yours.

Freedom is Choice

span said...

Academics may be well paid compared to other sectors of our society but surely it is better to bring others up than bring academics down?

Also we are losing our academics in droves to institutions overseas, largely because of our low wages internationally. If we want to maintain the standards we have already it is paramount that we stop this flow.

In regard to an increase in wages for academics resulting in fee increases for students, I know that AUS is definitely against this and is strongly seeking for the needed funding to come directly from Government.

Graham Watson said...

I had also thought low relative international wages for academics were causing a recruitment problem. I have however discussed this concern with some Uni people to find there are currently very little recruitment problems, except maybe in specialist or highly professional fileds (where competition form the private sector is more acute).

I would have no difficulty with extra payments for these high demand positions.

Regarding bringing other wages up i totally agree, real wages are too low in new zealand. A recipe of returning to workers some of the tax surplus taken off them and resultant assumed increase in economic growth would be a good beginning.

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