Te Pukenga staff in ‘confusion’ over new restructuring

An area in Te Pukenga's Dunedin campus. PHOTO: ODT FILES
An area in Te Pukenga's Dunedin campus. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Staff at embattled mega-polytechnic Te Pukenga are in a state of "confusion" as another round of restructuring is launched.

Te Pukenga, which has been asked to disestablish itself by Tertiary Education Minister Penny Simmonds, announced the new proposal yesterday.

It will affect about 7400 staff nationwide across the vocational education sector, but it appears there is the possibility some staff who lost their jobs but are still working out their notice periods may get their jobs back.

Te Pukenga said staff affected included those whose roles were proposed to be disestablished who had yet to accept redeployment, those who had received an offer for a position and those who had a change in reporting line in the new structure.

"We will work with those impacted, answering their questions and providing support through this process which aims to give them greater clarity in a timely fashion on a way ahead," acting chief executive Gus Gilmore said.

Feedback received during the two-week consultation period would be considered before final decisions were confirmed and shared with staff, he said.

"While the minister’s letter of expectations is specific about returning to a regionalised model for former industry training providers such as polytechnics and institutes of technology, further direction will be required to establish a future shape for our work-based learning business divisions."

Tertiary Education Union organiser Daniel Benson-Guiu said the process had been "terribly confusing" for staff.

"Part of the outcome of the last restructure was that staff who were going to be disestablished were given a notice period, which I think winds up in April.

"This has left affected people in two groups; those who were working out their notice; and those who were seeking new opportunities within the new structure.

"Now, both of them have been told their old jobs might be back. That’s all very well, but it also doesn’t factor in those who have already left, and it doesn’t factor in what the minister wants the new structure replacing Te Pukenga to look like."

The onus was on the minister to "clear this confusion", he said.

"Te Pukenga has been asked to disestablish itself without knowing exactly what is happening to them."

The mega-polytechnic brought together the country’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics and nine industry training organisations but Ms Simmonds has since signalled a return to a more regional-based model.

She has said she would be looking to devolve the responsibilities to "eight to 10" separate institutions, and the changes should be complete by the end of this year.

In a briefing to Ms Simmonds, the Tertiary Education Commission considered Te Pūkenga to be at "high risk" financially.

"There are a range of issues and challenges regarding financial viability that would need to be considered given the former institute of technology and polytechnic network remains unprofitable."

Ms Simmonds has been approached for comment.