The need for action
After our very successful action at the end of last year, with our results bans widely supported and management put on notice about the seriousness of NTEU members’ commitment to achieving better outcomes on pay and job security, the Management Team came to the table with some real enthusiasm for settlement of all outstanding claims. Unfortunately the Management Team’s enthusiasm and willingness to put some effort into drafting, while a very welcome and long-awaited development, still seems to be slightly ahead of the intransigence of the Vice-Chancellor, financial controllers and other Executive members.
It might also interest you to know that the Executive received substantial bonuses in 2009 – this information has just been dragged out of the University Management by our freedom of information request to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC). Despite the University’s objections about public interest, the OIC ordered them to release data showing that the University’s most highly-paid managers received bonuses in 2009 ranging from around $50 000 (DVC Research; Director of HR) to more than $60 000 (Chief Financial Officer; Provost; DVC Development External Relations). The VC, on top of his salary of almost $600 000, received $150 000 in 2009 and is eligible for $300 000 to be paid in the first quarter of this year if he achieves “long-term KPIs.” We will certainly pursue the data for 2010 as well, so that you can see how much more value is placed on an Executive member doing their job than on you doing yours. (We get “red balloon” awards; Executive members get up to a quarter of their base salary!)
Remember that these are the people who have been assuring us of their confidence in the profitability of the University’s property ventures, marketing $250million worth of bonds to overseas investors and boasting publicly about the University’s healthy financial position, sizeable surpluses and solid credit rating. Now they are trying to cry poor and convince us that if they can’t maintain “workforce flexibility” (ie no limits on fixed term and casual employment for the lowest-paid staff), it will all come tumbling down like a house of cards!
The reality is that this has come down to the VC’s ideological fixation with maintaining the Workchoices regime of unfettered managerial discretion in determining contracts of employment. The combination of the Management’s pay offer and their position on fixed-term contracts would provide substandard working conditions for Macquarie staff. Clearly the goal is to pay most staff at a low rate relative to the sector while keeping them compliant through fear of non-renewal of contracts. This would diminish our ability to defend our workplace rights and in particular make it very challenging to implement the regulation of workloads set down in the Enterprise Agreement. In a short space of time, without an increased pay offer and limits on fixed-term employment, we will see the emergence of an army of fixed-term, poorly paid employees teaching more hours and more students, enabling the diversion of funds earned through teaching (i.e. Commonwealth funding and student fees) to prop up the University’s unsustainable CoRE strategy by paying a few “stars” loadings of up to 50% and to service massive debts on risky property development and other entrepreneurial projects.
There is simply no need for this strategy at this time – indeed, it is highly destructive of the University’s medium- to long-term sustainability. Most of the University’s research output still comes from staff outside the CoREs – the very staff whose research time is now being squeezed by a combination of increased student load, increased administrative workload (particularly in areas with a high proportion of teaching done by casuals) and the distraction of having to deal with budget cuts, change management processes, and of all things a Faculty of Science review that should have been done BEFORE they launched the budget cuts and change management processes!!!!
WHAT WE MUST DO TO HALT THIS MADNESS
- Ensure that you and your colleagues are well-informed about the risks of management’s proposals on pay and job security. Share copies of the NTEU newsletter (The Beacon) around your workplace; put up some posters, hand out the FAQs for staff.
- Recruit non-members to the NTEU – if we are organised and stick together we will be able to place sufficient pressure on management to improve their offer on pay and conditions, and once we have an agreement, to enforce the provisions that protect staff from exploitation through the use of short-term contracts and ever-increasing workloads.
- Help distribute information to students during O-Week – just come up to the NTEU office to pick up some flyers, posters and a t-shirt to wear, and join in the fun of O-Week by helping to get students informed about what’s going on and how poor pay and conditions for staff mean poor learning conditions for students.
- A meeting of over 130 members at the end of last year voted to strike next week if there was no concrete evidence of Management moving towards a satisfactory settlement on pay and job security. It is vitally important now to fulfil this resolution by going on strike next week in support of the NTEU bargaining team’s efforts to negotiate a satisfactory settlement on these key outstanding issues. Each Faculty has a designated day for striking – whether you are teaching that day or not, the NTEU has voted for industrial action and members are urged to comply by withdrawing your labour for a full 24 hours.
- On your designated strike day, we are asking you to raise the NTEU’s visibility by gathering in the main courtyard at our own “advising tables”. Here we will distribute information to students and staff explaining our case for better pay and conditions. We’ll also have some fun – we’re planning a BBQ and picnic lunches, plus the Solidarity Choir will be performing on the Tuesday at lunchtime. We’ll be putting up some posters and perhaps having a bit of an award ceremony to show the Union’s appreciation of management’s efforts, which have led to a marked increase in NTEU membership and the level of activism within the Union.
But why do we have to take strike action? Isn’t there a better way?
Unfortunately, after 20 months of bargaining and almost no movement from the Management, we find ourselves in a situation where further industrial action is necessary in order to maintain the pressure on the Management to settle the Agreement. We have tried arguments, meetings, petitions, ads, YouTube videos, newsletters, posters, t-shirts and demonstrations. The only thing that has shifted them at all to date has been our strong and determined action last year with the exam results bans. There is simply no better or more effective way to press home the commitment of the members to a fair deal on conditions and pay than to take industrial action.
Collective action is the most powerful tool we have – and we have genuinely tried everything else, including offering (and in many cases agreeing to) substantial concessions on our original claims and bargaining positions. For example, we have proposed, as concessions on our original claims:
- Additional categories of fixed-term employment
- A reduced pay settlement (now 19% over four years)
- A later expiry date (June 2013 rather than December 2012)
- Criterion-based process instead of caps on casualisation, plus a review process (now agreed)
- Relaxed requirements for composition of certain committees (now agreed)
We are still waiting for Management’s response on the three key outstanding items – and cannot call off the industrial action that a large proportion of our membership voted for last year, until we see evidence of something concrete from the Management in return for the concessions we are offering and have already made. We really are at the point of having to take this action because nothing else can demonstrate our commitment to achieving a just outcome for our members (and all staff, since everyone gets what the Union members fight for – another good reason to join and contribute to the effort to improve pay and conditions).
Keep in mind that, at the first bargaining meeting this year, the Director of HR clearly stated his view that “bargaining isn’t a debate – and it’s not the best arguments that win the issues,” implicitly conceding that our strong arguments on pay and conditions are in fact better than those the University Management is putting forward to defend its position. It’s not brilliant bargaining teams that win agreements either (or we would have won months ago!!!!! haha). Rather, it’s the resolve of the membership standing firmly behind the bargaining team that will now help the Management Team to convince the VC and other Executive members that holding out on the key issues will not resolve them, and that they are placing the University’s reputation at risk by continuing to refuse to negotiate a better deal.
I urge you to join the action next week in defence of Your Rights @ MQ.
Reclaim your University!