20 Jan 2023

AUT fined and told to start redundancy process again from scratch

5:11 pm on 20 January 2023

First published on NZ Herald

AUT Auckland University of Technology

Auckland University of Technology has been fined $3000 for failing to comply with an Employment Authority order. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has been fined $3000 for breaching a compliance order and has been told to start its redundancy plan all over again, an Employment Court decision reveals.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) took AUT to court claiming the university had repeated conduct and actions the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) had previously said breached their collective agreement.

The court ruled AUT breached one of four compliance orders and that a modest fine of $3000 should be paid.

The ruling also said the university would have to "start again" with its redundancy process.

AUT planned to cut 170 academic staff in a bid to lower costs by $21 million or more, citing 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.

Staff were told on 1 December about the termination of their employment by severance from 1 February, 2023.

The TEU successfully took its case to the 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 said this afternoon that redundancies were necessary due to 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."

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