Smelling rats as well as reindeer

It’s the season to be stroppy at UTS

Not everybody is Christmas cheering

After months of tense, terse and at times apparently interminable enterprise negotiations, outsourced by management to a law firm, it seems the University of Western Sydney wants peace to prevail. The university  says that the state of play with the two unions is such that a heads of an agreement can be adopted before Christmas. If the unions sign by the 18th all eligible staff will receive a $1500 bonus before year’s end.
But why the rush? Perhaps management is just overwhelmed by new found affection for union officials, no probably not. Or perhaps this is a variation on Andy Vann’s gambit at Charles Sturt University a few months back. Vice Chancellor Vann short-circuited NTEU opposition, by putting a new agreement direct to staff without union endorsement – which was overwhelmingly adopted. Ever since, the National Tertiary Education Union has been keener on consensus than confrontation. In this case UWS management may be banking on the union buckling, not wishing to be blamed if staff do not receive $1500 (pre tax) big ones.
Whatever is a-hoof, the local NTEU smells rats as well as reindeer, warning members a collection of conditions still need work. Most important, the union argues, the timing of the increments in management’s proposed pay offer is such that a headline 3 per cent per annum compounding over four years is really 2.4 per cent. Union members met this week and are hoping that the union bargaining team will meet with management (rather than its lawyers) on Tuesday and hammer out an agreement.

Anger @ UTS

At the University of Technology Sydney NTEU branch president Simon Wade is charged with serious misconduct. Mr Wade is not talking and the university refuses to specify the charges. However an NTEU petition demands his reinstatement and that management “provide all union bargaining representatives proper time release to participate in the bargaining process on behalf of UTS staff.” Last night the union said 1000 people had signed the petition in 24 hours.  There is a protest scheduled for 8am Monday morning.

Impolite abbreviation

When Vice Chancellor David Battersby announced that his University of Ballarat would become Federation University Australia cynics suggested this quickly be abbreviated to FU. And lo it has come to pass with suggestions that the university’s brand keepers are issuing instructions on how it is be named. However a university spokesman says there is no formal instruction, that advice is informal. Probably wise, what with it being a lost cause.

Bebbington’s big win

Perhaps making him the only person in South Australia with something to be pleased about just now Warren Bebbington had a big win yesterday, with the announcement of a standard bonus marks scheme for undergraduate entry backed by all three Adelaide universities. One is an equity scheme administered by the SA Tertiary Admissions Centre, which will award five bonus marks according to “national measures” of disadvantage. The other allocates four marks to applicants who studied a foreign language or specified maths and English school subjects. They replace a plethora of individual university schemes, which were gamed by students, and, cynics suggest, university officials with more places than aspiring undergraduates who met declared academic entry requirements to fill them.
The University of Adelaide vice chancellor moved to end this clipping of the admission coin when he took over as SATAC chair in February and called for universities to publish the range of marks that got students into courses and to develop a single system. What the state was stuck with, he said, “results in a lack of transparency about the real scores required to get into a program, and it means that parents and students are not well informed.” It was a smart move, which Flinders and the University of South Australia had to embrace, lest they looked like they were using bodgey recruitment schemes. Flinders, while sticking up for its own entry systems, was especially quick off the mark back in February in endorsing the idea. And now the plan is in place it is supported by Uni SA’s David Lloyd, Michael Barber from Flinders and of course Bebbington.

Cash and carry

CMM’s more-front-than-Myers correspondent recommends an ABC interview yesterday in which Geoffrey Donnan from the Florey Institute suggested that as GMH was not going to need government subsidies the money should go to export-generating medical and pharmaceutical research.

Tropics time

Simon Maddocks will be the new vice chancellor of Charles Darwin University, taking over from Barney Glover, who leaves in less than three weeks to become VC of the University of Western Sydney. Professor Maddocks who is now Director of Science Partnerships at the South Australian Research and Development Institute takes over in March. While DVC Sharon Bell will capably hold the fort at Charles Darwin until the new boss arrives the late announcement and longish lead-time leaves the university on hold for months. Maybe nothing much is expected during the wet season.

Nobody’s idea of a junket

Former Labor MP Kirsten Livermore’s report of her April parliamentary study tour is in – she went to Mongolia to study vocational education there and what Australia can do to improve it – which turns out to be quite a bit. It’s a serious bit of work on a serious subject – but I wonder whether it will appeal to many New Colombo Plan students.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au