Monday, August 01, 2005

President's Column - Enough is Enough

Late last year a good friend and I were having a quiet drink in an Auckland pub. My friend mentioned that he was going to a Destiny Church service the next day. This was not due to any new found religious affiliation (he is an active member of the New Zealand Rationalists and Humanists Society), but simply out of interest – Destiny and Brian Tamaki had been in the news a lot surrounding their opposition to the Civil Union Bill. My friend asked if I would like to go along too, mainly because I had a car and could drive him to Mount Wellington. So the next day we headed out to Destiny, sand some songs, denounced the sins of the world, and had a nice cup of coffee.

I took most of it with a grain of salt – but one phrase has stuck with me. Bishop Brian continually said of the current social environment New Zealand was in; “Enough is enough”.

I was reminded of this phrase last Wednesday. If you are follower of my columns (which I can only imagine most of you are…), you will have noticed that I am quite a big supporter of the staff industrial action. I have continually bleated on about how staff pay is directly linked to the value of students’ education and subsequent qualifications. In fact, two weeks ago I myself was standing on the AUS picket line in the cold and rain with fellow exec members, NZUSA Federation Officers, and students.

However, last Wednesday AUS had a “lightning strike” outside the library. This involved staff from the library walking off the job and picketing in the library foyer. They are perfectly entitled to do this under the Employment Relations Act 2000, and I respect this.

What I don’t respect is the tactic employed on Wednesday. Students were physically stopped from entering the library, and those that were able to force their way through the picket line were physically and verbally abuse with cries of “SHAME!”. Campus Care had to be called to escort students through the picket line and into the library – the whole scene resembled the de-segregation of universities in the Southern United States. To be perfectly honest, I was speechless to see this at Victoria University.

As this was a “lightning strike”. There was no way students could have planned ahead of time, so they wouldn’t have to go to the library. If a student had an assignment due the next day, and were (as most of us always are) doing it at the “eleventh hour”, they were screwed. Simple.

Once again students are caught in the middle of a despite between the university and staff. This is a message to AUS and University Management: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

This strike has already cost students in terms of missed classes and study time. It is now time that AUS and Pat Walsh put their differences aside and get back to the negotiating table for the good of the students and the university. The government has demonstrated that it is willing to attend tripartite talks – it is now time to resolve this issue so students, who have to pay exorbitant fees to attend classes, are no longer disadvantaged like this.

I have regular meeting with AUS Victoria, where they constantly ask for student support for their action. My message for AUS now is; they’ve got a long way to go until they’ll get it.

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