UNSW industrial campaignâ€“ Report from Sarah Gregson, Branch President
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.