Monster mash

ANU’s Humanities Research Centre is organising an inter-disciplinary conference to commemorate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To “maintain order among the monsters” propose your paper here.  Strangely CMM can find no reference to Mel Brooks in the proposed programme.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today, Higher Education Consulting Group’s Dr Susie Robinson takes a closer look at the ARC engagement and impact exercise, asking, “Is there a case for case studies?’ Read the article here

La Trobe and union agree on good terms

Relations between La Trobe University management and union used to resemble the 30 Years War, only nastier – but now comes news that the two side have quietly come up with a new enterprise agreement of a kind we may not see again, at least while the government’s funding cuts remain.

This (with UoQ to come) is probably the last of the pre-MYEFO deals in the current enterprise bargaining round and as such it is relatively generous. Very generous in terms of one major management concession.

As to money, the university is using the popular mix of cash and per centage pay rises, which help low income workers most. There will be a $1500 payrise for all staff on the agreement’s adoption, followed by a 1.5 per cent increase in December, $1800 in July ’19, 1.6 per cent in July ’20 and again in July ’21.

The union will also be pleased with the workload model, notably management agreeing not to alter them without consulting staff and the union.  And both sides will be able to live with the new discipline review system, under which appeals go to an independent reviewer who will look at process and whether the evidence supports a misconduct finding (Deakin U set a precedent for this sort of agreement.).

But the bit that union officers will really like is the absence of performance pay. Originally LT U offered “recognition payments” of 0.1 per cent for all staff in ’18,’19 and ’20 if the university lifted1 per cent in each year’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching student satisfaction performance (CMM December 1 2017). NTEU officials hate performance pay, suggesting that it is unfair to staff who have no contact with students and they tell staff that the pay rises in the new agreement are “not contingent on performance targets.”

The unis that go hard to give women a fair go

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has announced universities which have received a 2017 “employer of choice” citation. They are

ARC a UNSW, (it’s a student organisation), Australian Catholic University, Curtin University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Monash University, QUT, RMIT University, Swinburne University, University of Canberra, University of Newcastle, University of Southern Queensland, University of Technology Sydney, University of Wollongong and University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University. The list is the same as last time, except for RMIT, which joins the list this year.

DeakinCo set to expand

DeakinCo announces it is expanding channels for its micro-credentials; “to include direct to consumers (and partnering with other higher education providers to license our micro-credential model and platform. This will allow our partners to offer their own branded micro credentials.” Good-o, but with who? The “learning and development solutions” provider isn’t saying beyond it is having discussions with three Australian and one UK organisations. No faulting the the Deakins for optimism.

Marnie Hughes Warrington at home among the gum trees

Macquarie University has chopped down 100 plus 40-year lemon-scented gums (CMM Feb 20) but ANU is embracing timber, explained by Marnie Hughes Warrington in the new instalment of her remarkable chronicle of constructing a new campus and creating a culture connecting the university to its Indigenous heritage and environment.

“Every Burin—Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha)—on our campus suggests stories of shelters, rope, fire and shields; and the Nummerak—Hickory Wattle (Acacia implexa)—offers flour, medicine and the means to catch fish,” she writes.

And then there are the practical benefits, wood makes for environmentally solid construction and produces better environments. And the good it does is goes beyond the physical. “People prefer to work and study near wood, and that it has a positive impact on productivity and stress levels. The appeal is multi-sensory: people want to look at, to touch and to smell wood.”

But CMM suspects what is being goes beyond this – that to belong in our own landscape requires us to see our trees as not less than European imports. Where better for this to happen than the Australian national university.


Industrial umpire says no to new deal on regulating wages and hours for uni staff

Industry awards are reviewed every four years, giving unions and lobby groups a chance to argue for changes to working conditions. Yesterday a full bench of the Fair Work Commission decided on a long list of changes to the higher education award, variously supported or opposed by unions and employment groups. Given most enterprise agreements include better conditions for workers than are in the award this might seem academic. It isn’t – as demonstrated by Murdoch U’s move last year, to replace its expired agreement with award conditions.

Among a mass of proposed and opposed changes on working conditions decided for university staff by the commission one stands out, how long and for how much should academic and professional staff work.

Academic working hours: According to the National Tertiary Education Union, management interference means the days when academics were self-organising and worked the hours they knew they needed to get their job done are gone. It is now “possible and practical to make a fair assessment of how much time it would take a competent academic to complete a given total academic workload to a professional standard,” adding that university academic supervisors already did so. The union also argued that “the academic staff award’s properly fixed minimum rates are undermined in circumstances where there is no provision in the award which addresses the issue of long hours of work being required by the employer without compensation.” However, management groups variously argued that this would lead to overtime in the award, “which was inconsistent with the nature of how academic work was organised and determined, with much of that work self-determined rather than directed or required by the employer.”

The commissioners knocked the union back, concluding that its proposal would require, “more robust and/or rigorous mechanisms for recording the time spent on particular activities by academics” and that “it is not possible in our view to delineate between required and self-directed academic work.” Overall the FWC decided that deciding what to pay academics for their work is what enterprise bargaining was created to do.

General staff overtime: The union also called on the commission to insert overtime in the award for general staff. However the NTEU lost this one as well, with FWC concluding; “while the evidence pointed to some general staff working additional hours, the evidence does not establish that those hours were worked across the board by general staff or were not capable of being compensated or dealt with in accordance with the processes established under the applicable industrial instrument.”