Round Six of university enterprise bargaining is underway
Round Six of university enterprise bargaining is underway following a successful meeting of approximately eighty delegates from across NTEU’s university branches to debate key strategies and claims. The NTEU Bargaining Forum, held on 15-16 June, endorsed a bargaining strategy focussed on academic and general staff workloads, general staff career development and tackling the casualisation of university teaching.
The Union’s bargaining resolution was unanimously adopted following robust debate over proposed amendments to an Optional Individual Work Value Advancement claim for general staff and the proposed New Academic Career Entry and Work Structures (in lieu of Casual Employment). While major amendments were narrowly lost, many others that strengthened the initial draft proposals were incorporated into the resolution. (See accompanying articles on the general and academic staff core claims.)
One of the Union’s key bargaining claims is the creation of 2000 new, ongoing jobs for casual academics. The new positions, to be known as ‘scholarly teaching fellows’, will spend up to 70 per cent of their time teaching. They are an attempt by the Union to provide opportunities for career advancement for younger academics locked out of the system, and reduce the unacceptably high levels of causal employment.
‘Over half of academic teaching in universities is now undertaken by people paid by the hour,’ said NTEU President, Jeannie Rea. ‘This growth in casualisation is the dirty secret of Australian higher education, which now threatens to undermine the quality of our university system. No matter how hard these causal staff work, and we know they are very committed, they cannot provide the same level of level of assistance to students as their full-time counterparts.’
Other major claims agreed on at the Bargaining Forum include:
- Improved career progression and classification procedures for general and professional staff. This is in recognition of the increasing amount and complexity of work faced by professional staff.
- Further increases in Indigenous employment based on binding Indigenous employment strategies and targets.
- Better workload arrangements for academic staff with a particular focus on capping excess teaching loads, protecting research opportunities and reducing exceptional levels of workload stress.
- Provision for employees who are dealing with the consequences of domestic violence.
- A competitive salary rise which takes account of movements in comparable labour markets, actual and prospective increases in the cost of living and the large and continuing uncompensated productivity gains associated with dramatic increases in student enrolments without corresponding increases in staffing numbers.
- The protection of existing employment conditions.
With the majority of the existing three-year enterprise agreements set to expire in the coming months, the Union will also be asking the nation’s 39 Vice-Chancellors to sign up to four year agreements expiring in 2016. This is designed to provide a measure of stability for universities and firewall future enterprise bargaining negotiations as much as possible from anti-union interference from a potential future Coalition Government.
‘We understand the financial health of individual institutions differs across the higher education sector,’ said Rea. ‘But as successful campaigns against staff cuts at institutions like the Australian National University and University of Sydney have proven, management decisions regarding what is and is not possible can be successfully challenged. We believe not only can universities choose to meet these claims, it is in their interests to do so to ensure their most valuable resource, their staff, get the respect, recognition and reward they deserve.’