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UNSW industrial campaign– Report from Sarah Gregson, Branch President

Posted 12 January 2011 by Genevieve Kelly (University of Wollongong)

I would like to begin this report by extending, on behalf of the entire UNSW NTEU branch, our gratitude for the wonderful support we have received from around the country, both from NTEU members and from members of other unions. As one of the stand-downees, I can attest that we could not have afforded to hold out so long in the face of management’s attempts to ‘starve us out’ without the essential financial support we’ve received. Equally vital, the messages of support have been wonderful ‘food for morale’ and have fuelled our commitment to stand against Hilmerism and what it threatens for the sector.

As it stands at the moment, there are 37 members stood down without pay by a management team contemptuous of the process of enterprise bargaining and unwilling to acknowledge the union as the valid bargaining representative of UNSW staff. The main sticking point remains around the issue of job security – Hilmer refuses to accept any regulation of management prerogative to hire and fire on whatever terms they see fit. In response to management’s delays and obfuscation aimed ultimately at thwarting our attempts to finalise new agreements, our members are refusing to transmit their results to the administration After more than two years of bargaining, we felt we had few other options – the VC himself has publicly stated that he didn’t see why we needed new enterprise agreements when the old ones (struck under HEWRRs) are, to his mind at least, working well.

In response to the industrial pressure created by our bans, negotiations on the content of a heads of agreement covering all major outstanding issues took place just before the end of year shutdown. These discussions reached the point where UNSW HR director indicated that he was prepared to recommend the draft heads of agreement to the Vice Chancellor. Almost immediately, Hilmer announced that he was going away somewhere on the planet where there are no phones and would not be contactable until January 4th. Upon his return to the land of the living, Hilmer advised that he is 'not averse' to a stronger clause covering the conversion of fixed-term employment contracts to continuing jobs. However, we were told it would take a week or more to prepare a draft clause outlining management’s position. Their failure to act with any sense of urgency is an insult both to the staff stood down without pay and to students awaiting their results.

And so the bans continue. I cannot praise enough the solidarity and commitment showed by our members who, although pushed almost beyond endurance, have stood up for what they believe in – job security, workload regulation, academic freedom, gender equity and quality student outcomes. The stand downees have, between them, more than six hundred years of service to the higher education sector – indeed, one of them won a teaching award shortly after being stood down! They deserve the support of union members around the country to make sure that the battle for decent working conditions and against casualisation and short-termism is won.


  1. Melanie Lazarow said on 10:41 Tuesday 25 Jan, 2011

    [ 0 ] Congratulations to NTEU UNSW for your continued fight. It is hard particularly when mangement-supporting people write on bulletins like this which are democratically open. I have contributed $100 to your stood down members and hope that others will donate too.

    Unless members stand up for their conditions then the quality of education decreases. Too few staff, to many casual staff, and too many staff on short-term contracts is a poor basis for higher eduction. Keep fighting.

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  2. @D said on 8:46 Thursday 20 Jan, 2011

    [ +2 ] Well come down to the doncaster and talk about this then I'm there from 5pm today if you want. Look for the "Ranga" as people like YOU tend to refer me as. Stupid Arts Students!

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  3. @@D said on 17:05 Wednesday 19 Jan, 2011

    [ -4 ] I think i know what course im doing you idiot. such a pointless comment. go burn in hell u prick

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  4. @D said on 15:19 Wednesday 19 Jan, 2011

    [ +4 ] You're probably some arts student

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  5. @@D said on 14:59 Wednesday 19 Jan, 2011

    [ -7 ] You cant transfer a medicine course u clown

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  6. @D said on 9:02 Wednesday 19 Jan, 2011

    [ +2 ] Well transfer out then if you don't like UNSW.

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  7. D: said on 17:31 Tuesday 18 Jan, 2011

    [ -2 ] yeah it sucks. unsw's gone down the drain these days. :( everyone's telling me i should've gone to another uni

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  8. AdamExchanger said on 15:28 Tuesday 18 Jan, 2011

    [ +4 ] I agree that UNSW's reputation abroad is suffering as a result of this ludicrous work action. I was an exchange student last semester and have told my university's exchange advisers simply not to send anyone to UNSW until NTEU capitulates. I find it ridiculous that such a small portion of UNSW staff can have such a large impact on students generally, but me specifically as I am no longer even in the country (and have vastly different deadlines than those in Australia, all of which are quickly approaching).

    Figure it out.

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  9. Lame said on 18:52 Monday 17 Jan, 2011

    [ -1 ] The reputation of this university is slowly going down the drain. Internationally UNSW is a laughing stock now...

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  10. @james said on 15:05 Friday 14 Jan, 2011

    [ -1 ] James I know that it is upsetting for you to go through this process and I seriously feel for students who need the marks for applications and scholarships, but please understand where the staff are coming from as well.

    I'm sure that the 37 who have been stood down (actually I know most of them) understand the pain that it causes to you and others in your situation but two years of trying to get an updated agreement needed something like this to occur to force the management to come to the table.

    I have spoken to some students in the last week and they have been able to discuss when putting in applications that it is out of their control. Maybe this is something you can look at until the results are provided. (although I do understand that not everyone will take this into account).

    I am sure that you and other students will be kept in the loop as to the progress. We wouldn't have jobs if there was no students and likewise you wouldn't be a student without staff so I see it as important to keep open communication. In saying that I don't think as a member I should be posting updates as this is the role of the Exec and they know more about what is going on then us. I'd suggest emailing the contacts to ask for updates (but if the emails contain vulgar language they will most likely not respond). The union is not trying to keep things secret from students or other interested parties so I'm sure you will receive information if you ask. Who knows UNSW might even post some updates on their HR site, but information seems to be very delayed on there.

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