Slow, stalled stymied – the sorry state of pay claims on campuses across the country

The National Tertiary Education Union’s national day of action protesting university funding cuts came and went but enterprise bargaining at campuses across the country grinds slowly on, very, very slowly. CMM suspects university managements will not do any deals until after the election. An Abbott Government might make it harder for the union to represent staff. Or it might make life harder for everybody in universities by cutting funding, thus making pay rises harder to fund. Whatever happens the state of negotiations will not make it difficult to delay deals. Here is how things stand (as far as CMM can work out).

 Australian Catholic University: Bargaining began in June and continues without uproar.

 ACT

Australian National University: negotiations are stalled and the union has lodged an application to hold a ballot on protected industrial action. The goodwill that accompanied the recent savings consultations is gone.

University of Canberra: The NTEU logged its claim in December and bargaining is proceeding. Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker pushed through savings measure, matched by a pay rise in May with what seems like staff support. Even the student association approved!

 NSW

 Charles Sturt University: Last week union negotiator Kevin Poynter thought an agreement was close with few outstanding issues. Of course one of them is a, “competitive pay increases that recognise the productivity increases we have achieved at CSU.”

Macquarie University: It’s barbeques not barricades, with the NTEU branch hosting a barbie a couple of weeks back to advise staff on the state of negotiations. There does not seem to be much stomach for a struggle at Macquarie. Perhaps union officials are enjoying the post Steven Schwartz serenity.

 University of New England: From August 12 to the end of the month staff are mounting 2-hour stop works, “on a discipline by discipline basis” to “jolt management”.

 University of Newcastle: Branch organiser Jenny Whittard warns staff not to buy, ”the rosy impression recent university management bargaining updates purport to give” and urges them to resist “attempts to undermine provisions in your enterprise agreement”.

 University of Sydney: There was a strike on Tuesday. With VC Michael Spence saying the university’s offer was final and current only until the end of the month, “stalled” seems the most optimistic description of the state of play.

 University of Technology Sydney: Negotiations began last month with the union immediately suggesting management was “demonstrating contempt” for the process.

 University of Western Sydney: The university engaged lawyers to dispute the NTEU’s request for a ballot on protected action. This was rejected by FWA and members subsequently voted in favour of industrial activity. (Management says some 420 people, 60 per cent of people on the roll voted). No date is yet set for industrial action but whatever love there was between union and university management looks lost.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

 Charles Darwin University: The five(!) unions represented on campus posted a log of claims in March.

QUEENSLAND

 Central Queensland University: CQU is one of three universities with a new agreement. The  local union appears on-song with Vice Chancellor Scott Bowman, who is implementing a rescue package, including wholesale redundancies, to deal with a financial crisis due to the decline in international enrolments.

 Griffith University: Nothing reported since a staff meeting back in June.

James Cook University: The NTEU branch suspended work bans last week, which had delayed student results for well over a month. The union has also reduced its wage claim but management appears in no hurry to reach an agreement.

 Queensland University of Technology: The union bargaining team reports recent progress on workloads for professional and academic staff, career progression, grievance processes and “domestic violence” (presumably they are against it). There is no mention of money.

 University of Southern Queensland: As of August 7 “arrangements and resources for the bargaining negotiations have now been agreed”. Meetings are scheduled for every second fortnight. Last week Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas said the university was “in a strong financial position” so CMM wonders how long a deal will take and what it will cost.

 University of the Sunshine Coast: At the beginning of the month the union reported that while both sides are familiar with the other’s position there is a way to go. “Indications are that in some areas negotiations will be quite straight forward, but in other areas it might prove quite difficult.” NTEU negotiators signalled management’s desire to exclude the union from being party principal in a dispute.

 SOUTH AUSTRALIA

 Flinders University: The third negotiating meeting occurred yesterday and the NTEU team is not happy.A fundamental point of difference between the management and union negotiating groups has become increasingly evident. Management wants a ‘principles-based’ enterprise agreement and, by extension of that view, unmitigated management prerogative. The NTEU, on behalf of staff, will settle for nothing less than a properly prescriptive enterprise agreement that fairly and comprehensively sets out terms and conditions of employment.”

 University of Adelaide: The CPSU representing professional staff at U of A isn’t thrilled either. As of mid month the bargaining team was warning members; “negotiators are becoming increasingly concerned with the slow progress of the enterprise bargaining negotiations. No substantial progress has been made in the formal bargaining meetings since we commenced in February 2013. The time line is completely unacceptable and makes a mockery of the concerns that this round will not repeat the past.”

 University of South Australia: While the last meeting was held on August 12 the most recent on the record report covers the prior meeting, which dealt with indigenous employment. Apparently “there was a useful exchange of views and information, with the management representatives restating the university’s commitment to reconciliation.”

 TASMANIA

 University of Tasmania: The union reports progress towards a single agreement for all university staff. As of August 16 the major issues were, academic workloads, job security, conditions of employment for English Language Centre staff, and there was one more, oh yes, the wage claim.

 VICTORIA

 University of Ballarat: The NTEU branch lifted a ban on processing exam results in the middle of the month, “as a gesture of goodwill in light of the severe cuts announced at Ballarat TAFE.” No, CMM does not see the connection either.

 Deakin University: The union reports “some progress” and has lifted bans on sending students their exam results and overtime. “The results ban created an enormous administrative burden for senior management and pressure by staff and students ensured that they reflected on senior management’s approach to bargaining.” Staff knocked back a 3 per cent pay rise per annum for four years last month.

 La Trobe University: Union members voted on Tuesday to life the student results ban from next week. According to NTEU branch president Virginia Mansel Lees,This action has been extremely successful with 12,000 students directly affected.  That’s 12,000 people, their parents, friends and fellow students who know more about our campaign.  The response from students has also been extremely supportive compared to other branches.” However the bargaining team describes the university’s proposed agreement as; “an appalling attack on the working conditions of our members.” The union warns management wants to delay negotiations until October, which, “reveals that they are waiting for another Coalition government to take office.” CMM suspects this is bang-on and not just at La Trobe.

 University of Melbourne: Yesterday the union posted a comprehensive list of issues outstanding after a year of negotiations yesterday covering contracts, fixed term positions and workloads. Pay was not mentioned. Perhaps the issue most important to union activists was buried in the document; “once again the university is seeking to remove NTEU involvement from the managing claim process. Currently the NTEU is notified by management when they propose a change such as redundancies or a restructure of an area. Senior management are seeking to remove this right and would like to put the onus on individual members to contact the NTEU in the event of major change in their area. Members should be concerned about this proposal.  How can we assist and advise you of your rights if we’re not across what management is thinking from the outset?” CMM suspects the university is hoping an Abbott Government will follow John Howard’s precedent and deal the union out of negotiations.

 Monash University: The Fair Work Commission ordered an end to exam outcomes and other work bans as of August 14. The union says bans can be reimposed in a fortnight, on three days notice to management without members having to vote on industrial action again.

 RMIT University:  The NTEU wrote to VC Margaret Gardner on August 12 complaining about inadequate progress after a year of talks and accusing the management bargaining team of “indolence and delay”. “Communications from RMIT senior management’s bargaining team to staff have become misleading and disrespectful of the process, generating confusion and anger among staff,” the open letter stated.  With an “unrealistically low” pay offer “RMIT has offended its staff and given the NTEU little option but to escalate our industrial response.”

 Swinburne University of Technology: After months of bitter argument and industrial bans no agreement seems close, with management saying the university cannot afford the NTEU wage claim. Despite this management and union have agreed on a pioneering agreement to support staff who are victims of domestic violence. Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson tried to break the apparent deadlock at the end of June by presenting staff with a unilateral 2.6 per cent pay rise, well short of the 4 per cent pa for three years the union is expected to be willing to settle for.

 Victoria University: The university branch logged the NTEU claim in April. Negotiations are under the radar.

 WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Curtin University: The university adopted an enterprise agreement in January.

Edith Cowan University: An agreement was reached in April.

 Murdoch University: Bargaining resumes next Wednesday, however the union’s Beth Cole warns differences with management may be intractable. The union has called a staff meeting to discuss next steps for August 29.

 University of Western Australia: Both management and unions are silent on negotiations.

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