Enterprise Bargaining Nearing the End at UQ
Dear NTEU Members at UQ
Apologies for the length of this post.
We appear to be finally approaching the end of bargaining. More than 2 years after we served your Log of Claims to management, and more than 1 year since we began formal negotiations, we have achieved most of what we set out to achieve in bargaining. The willingness of members to take industrial action, particularly with exam bans in November last year, enabled us to achieve breakthroughs at critical points.
We have restored to the Agreement all of the rights and entitlements that were removed as a result of the HEWRRs and Workchoices. We have protected job security (and improved it for Professional Staff). We have maintained stringent processes for managing change and outsourcing. Professional Staff reclassification has been improved, and we have a stronger Workloads clause for Academic Staff. Casual Staff will get paid for much more of the marking that they do and will have better access to facilities. Research Staff on soft money may be eligible to apply for a new Continuing Contingent mode of employment that will mean that they are far more likely retain their employment in circumstances where funding dries up for short periods.
As you know we had planned another meeting of members for tomorrow 10 June to report back on progress, but management have suggested having one “final” bargaining meeting on Wednesday 23 June, so it seems to make more sense to have it the day after that. Management have indicated that they hope to have all matters outstanding resolved by the end of that meeting. Please put 12pm, Thursday 24 June in your diary, as we will meet then to consider whether or not to accept management’s offer at that time.
From our perspective the remaining sticking points are:
Salary Increases: we are still arguing for a better pay offer. Our salaries at UQ rank as low as 20th in the country in some classifications, simply not acceptable for a Group of 8 university that continually ranks 3rd in Australia in performance. What is more, salaries are going backwards in comparative terms. Our current claim is for the 2% payments in January and July 2011 and January and July 2012 to be combined and another percent added, so that staff would receive 2% in July this year on top of the 2% received in January, and another 5% in January 2011 and January 2012. This could be funded easily by deferring a small proportion of the massive capital works program at UQ for a short time. Management say that they are unwilling to defer any of the building program to make salaries more competitive, and that any windfall amounts or operating surpluses should be used to reduce borrowing or pay down debt. We see this as putting buildings before staff.
Heron Island: Management are trying to take away entitlements to travel time to and from the Island and to allow for shorter and longer staff rosters. The travel time management are trying to take from staff is 4 hours 13 times per year for a small group of staff that come off the Island regularly. Shorter rosters with shorter breaks disadvantage staff that want to leave the Island on their days off. Longer rosters than the current 10 days on 4 days off, whether by agreement or otherwise, would not be in the interests of staff health or safety. We will not be moving on this item.
TESOL Teachers: TESOL teachers are currently considering an ‘offer’ from management to take their annual contact hours from 750 to 800. They are offering an increase in salary and some offsets in contact hours for some activities currently not recognized as contact hours in the agreement. Management have, despite our protests, put the package on a “all-or-nothing” basis, which means that if TESOL teachers reject the offer they will remain on the current (2005) agreement. TESOL Teachers will decide next week.
Probation for Academic Staff: The NTEU has argued strongly for a reduction in the probation period from the current 5 years to a more reasonable 3 years. Having such a long period of probation disadvantages staff and affects their job security. We believe that a supervisor should be able to determine within three years whether or not someone is capable of doing their job. UQ management have been unwilling to budge on this point.
Parental Leave: We have sought to have the right to parental leave extended to the primary care-giver rather than the current limitation to birth mothers. This would allow families more flexibility with respect to caring for children and would bring parental leave into line with the eligibility for Adoption Leave. As it stands if a primary care-giver who works at UQ, whose spouse does not, adopts a child, they have access to paid adoption leave. A primary care-giver who works at UQ, whose spouse does not, is only eligible for parental leave if they are the birth mother. Management have offered a number of minor concessions in exchange for the NTEU withdrawing this claim.
The Date of Operation and Number of Agreements: Most of the Agreements across the Higher Ed sector will finish on 30 June 2012. We are arguing for a similar date for UQ based on the fact that a later date would again mean that management would most likely be making ‘administrative’ pay rises, at least in the first instance. As has been shown in this round of bargaining, when management can unilaterally set pay rises they are inferior to pay rises negotiated through bargaining. The NTEU has a claim for a single agreement covering all staff at UQ, as we believe that is the best way of improving the position of Professional Staff vis-a-vis their Academic colleagues. The other unions that represent Professional Staff are holding out for a separate agreement for Professional Staff.
Please mark the 24th into your diary now. It would be great to have a huge turnout for what will hopefully be the final meeting about enterprise bargaining.