The National Tertiary Education Union has lost a bid to cover staff in medical research institutes in a decision by a full bench of the Fair Work Commission. The union was opposed by the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes and the Association for Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia which sought to have MRI staff covered by the Professionals rather than the Higher Education Academic Staff award.
Overall Vice President Catanzariti, Deputy President Kovavic and Commissioner Johns concluded both sides overstated their arguments but on balance they were convinced by the medical scientists.
“Having considered the industrial character of the work performed (by MRI staff) we accept that it is similar to that performed in universities and that there is turnover of employees between the two sectors. We also accept that some medical research institutes are co-located within universities (although a greater number are co-located within hospitals).”
However, while recognising the similarities, we reject the NTEU submission that the work of medical research institutes is essentially the same as that of universities. … The differences outweigh the similarities.” The commissioners decided to vary the professional employees award to suit the circumstances of MRI employees.
Last night NTEU Assistant National Secretary Matthew McGowan called the announcement, “a poor one for many of those people involved. The conditions in the Professional Employees Award are substantial weaker than the Higher Education Award … it will be to the detriment of many hard-working staff who deserved better.”
“We are now looking at how we can extend collective bargaining protections to researchers and others who rely upon the awards for their underlying conditions of employment,” Mr McGowan said.