Polytech job cut numbers stay secret

The Otago Polytechnic. PHOTOS: ODT FILES
The Otago Polytechnic. PHOTOS: ODT FILES
Staff at Otago Polytechnic and Southern Institute of Technology are still in the dark about how many roles could be cut in their institutions — five days after a national announcement proposing the slashing of 400 roles across all polytechnics.

Te Pūkenga, the merged mega-institute for vocational education and training, refused to give a straight answer to the Otago Daily Times about how many roles could go within the South’s two institutes under the proposed plan.

Instead, it said the request would be considered under the Official Information Act.

The mystery is compounded by increasing head-scratching among staff about which roles are up for the chop and why.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said similar roles in different institutions seemed to be variably proposed to be staying or going.

TEU organiser Daniel Benson-Guiu said staff across different polytechnics were connecting with each other and there was "an inconsistent and confusing picture emerging — we are trying to figure it out as we go, and get to the bottom of it, so we can support our members with clearer information.

"We are asking Te Pūkenga similar questions that the ODT is asking."

Te Pūkenga circulated to staff a 180-page "change proposal" consultation document last week, asking for feedback within five weeks and proposing cuts to institutes’ management and support staff and new roles within five centrally-co-ordinated "business groups".

The Southern Institute of Technology.
The Southern Institute of Technology.
Te Pūkenga also invited all staff to attend a virtual meeting last Thursday about the proposal, addressed by chief executive Peter Winder and other senior leadership staff.

"The scope of change and amount of information given by Te Pūkenga last week was large, but on a deeper dive, it is surprising how much information is questionable or simply not there," Mr Benson-Guiu said.

"We need additional information to allow our members to understand properly what is planned and enable an informed response to the consultation."

In the all-staff meeting last week, Mr Winder said that, when preparing the consultation, Te Pūkenga wanted to "get it right but I acknowledge in advance that we have probably got some things wrong".

For example, Te Pūkenga had used pay roll data to decide which roles should go or change, and this data would not necessarily reflect what staff were actually doing in their roles. Some people in some roles may "wear multiple hats," he said.

Mr Winder urged staff to speak up if there were errors, so mistakes could be addressed "as quickly as possible".

"We have identified those roles that would be disestablished if this goes ahead and we expect there will be changes to this, so look forward to feedback and engagement."