A new deal at Uni Sydney

After nearly two years of negotiations National Tertiary Education Union members voted yesterday to accept management’s enterprise agreement offer

In what is said to be the largest meeting of the NTEU in the university’s history, members voted 688 in favour, 172 opposed, with 21 abstentions. With the Community and Public Sector Union also said to support the offer, it should now go to an all-staff vote.

And if it is knocked back there CMM has no clue what union and management negotiators will do, although a serious interest in whisky would be understandable.

This may not be the toughest negotiation in the history of Aus HE – but if not it comes close, to the one that surely is, the last bargaining round at Uni Sydney.

And it is a big win for NTEU negotiators who dragged management away from key original claims (notably on more teaching only academics) and extracted a sector-leading pay rise.

As NTEU General Secretary Damian Cahill put it last night, “this wonderful result is the product of a long and hard-fought campaign against strong opposition from university management.”

It was also an immensely hard sell within the union – the NTEU Sydney branch committee has factions, which sometimes appear happy to debate what the day is.

And it is an achievement for management, which said from the start the university would talk and keep talking until agreement was reached and in the end got a deal that they can live with. This contrasts with the last round, when then VC Michael Spence surveyed staff about voting on an agreement without union support. Some 4349 staff participated and 61 per cent of them said the university should stay at the table, thus giving the union a de facto mandate to dig in (CMM September 7 2017)

While there is a strong voice warning the proposal now is still unfair for casual academics, overall it is sector leading, with an 18.2 per cent pay rise through to 2026. (Other terms too numerous to mention were in CMM last week, June 9).

In some elements it is a new deal in the FDR sense setting a benchmark for other rich universities,- hello Melbourne, evening Monash.


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