AUT is fined and has to start the dismissal process all over again

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AUT Auckland University of Technology

Auckland University of Technology has been fined $3,000 for failing to comply with an Employment Authority order.
Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has been fined $3,000 for breaching a compliance order and told to start its redundancy plan from scratch, an employment tribunal ruling has found.

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

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The court ruled that AUT had violated one of four compliance orders and that a modest $3,000 fine should be paid.

The ruling also said the university should “start over” with its firing process.

AUT planned to cut 170 academic staff in an effort to cut costs by $21 million or more, citing the impact Covid-19 had on central government funding and international student earnings.

The university offered staff the option of applying for voluntary redundancy, which 90 accepted, forcing 80 positions to be cut.

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Employees were informed on 1 December about the termination of their employment by giving notice as of 1 February 2023.

The TEU successfully took its case to the ERA, alleging that the university had failed to determine which positions it had identified as “redundant”, nor had it called for the voluntary redundancy of the potentially affected employees.

An AUT spokesperson said this afternoon that layoffs were necessary due to declining student numbers and the financial challenges facing the university.

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“Our collective agreement contains requirements that are additional to those of the legislation and the court ruling has clarified that, helping us set the way forward. We hope to work constructively with the TEU to make the changes we need to have.

“We understand this is a challenging time for our staff and we are working to resolve these matters to bring clarity to everyone.”

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