Not dead yet

Legislation to abolish the National Skills Commissioner was in the Reps yesterday

But Commissioner Adam Boyton was making it clear that the NSC is not yet Norwegian Blued. “(We) look forward to working with you and your networks to ensure we deliver the best advice to inform Australia’s skills system,” he emailed.

Just not for long.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Zoe Terpening (UNSW) on the extraordinary potential of health precincts to radically transform health care. “Universities are electing to put their research spaces within the four walls of our hospitals – a huge step forward in bringing academia closer to the patient bedside,” she writes.

plus Helping disengaged students can start with a phone call. Kelly Linden and Chris Campbell (Charles Sturt U) set out what to do in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series Need now in learning and teaching.

and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the financial state of Victoria’s public universities. “Their accounting methodologies are better suited to commercial, for-profit corporations, not charities,” he argues.

Government sets agenda: top billing for skills

New minister Brendan O’Connor made the government’s priorities clear with jobs and skills bills the first legislation in the Reps on the first working day

The bills cover the end of the previous government’s labour market advisory body, the National Skills Commission and create its replacement, Jobs and Skills Australia. But Jobs and Skills as legislated now will not be around for long – its permanent structure will follow consultation, notably at the Jobs and Skills Summit, next month.

What won’t change is the government’s overall intent to bring unions back into the employment and training tent, including them in consultations, with the states, training providers and employers.

“This partnership approach will ensure Jobs and Skills Australia’s advice matches and responds to the evolving demands of the economy, Australia’s workforce and learners and supports the training system to deliver the skilled workers Australia need,” the explanatory memorandum states.

Overall JSA will be a big deal indeed. Tasks will include

* leading research and analysis, harness insights from industry, undertake workforce forecasting and prepare capacity studies for emerging and growing industries

* considering the resourcing and funding requirements for registered training organisations to deliver accessible quality VET courses which will assist students and learners and better support government’s investment decisions in the sector.

All of which requires deep policy knowledge and political nous. The former may come from staff of the National Skills Commission moving into the new agency. We will have an idea who will provide the latter after the Summit – the government surely knows what it wants already but will have to politely listen for a bit before announcing whoever it wants in the job.

Union backs down at RMIT

National Tertiary Education Union members had voted not to do voluntary, unpaid, out of hours  work August 5-15th, including open days. Last night the union backed down

It was a protest at management not beginning bargaining for a new enterprise agreement.

In response, lawyers acting for RMIT argued the NTEU “is in the process of organising unprotected industrial action” because the union’s proposed action “fails to evade” the Fair Work Act definition and staff are remunerated for the sorts of work the union specified. The lawyers also contended that staff who attend open days are paid or given time in lieu and for academics open days can be part of their “engagement” work allocation.

They warned, “significant pecuniary penalties may be imposed against the NTEU” for industrial action not protected by the Act.

Last night the NTEU backed down, cancelling “planned actions” and asking members to perform “work as normal” for the ten days in August. In a message to members the RMIT branch states, “it disagrees that the proposed actions would be ‘unprotected industrial action as defined by the Fair Work Act. However, if management was successful in their threatened legal action the effect could put staff and their union at risk.”

Maybe more to come on continuing jobs for casuals

The industrial lobby representing most universities says negotiations at Western Sydney U could be “an important reference point for the sector”

Unions and Western Sydney U management have agreed on a proposal to create 150 continuing academic positions and to give WSU casuals first right to apply (CMM, Tuesday and yesterday)

National Tertiary Education Union NSW state secretary Damien Cahill says, “the task now is to win decasualisation and secure jobs at every university across the country. The win by members at WSU shows it is possible.”

New CEO of the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association,  Craig Laughton tells CMM “current negotiations at Western Sydney University could be an important reference point for the sector.”

Universities, “like most organisations in the country, continue to face challenges with income generation and cost increases. However, that does not mean there is no understanding or willingness to engage on employee pay and conditions.”

But he warned, “the financial capacity of universities around Australia is not the same, with each university facing their own unique economic pressures.”

QUT passes on a new provost

QUT’ last provost, Nic Smith is moving to Victoria U of Wellington to be VC – he won’t be replaced

VC Margaret Sheil says the provost position will end and the portfolio broken up, “to maintain momentum for the next phase of QUT’s strategy.” Changes include

* DVC R Christopher Barner-Kowolik takes on all provost position responsibilities for academic staff. Faculty executive deans will report to him. He keeps research and becomes senior DVC.

* Robina Xavier becomes DVC Academic, adding the Academic division to her Education portfolio.

A bunch of people have title changes, including Angela Barney-Leitch, now PVC Indigenous-Strategy who becomes DVC Indigenous Australians.


Appointments, achievements

The Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology announces Jose Polo (Uni Adelaide) receives the 2022 president’s medal. Kelly Smith (Uni Melbourne) has the emerging leader award.

Christy Collis moves from Uni Southern Queensland to become provost at both the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors and International College of Hotel Management.

Alison Pennington from The Australia Institute joins La Trobe U as an adjunct senior research fellows with the Philosophy, Politics and Economics programme