Agreement at Uni Wollongong

It took two goes but staff now back a savings plan

What’s happened: Big majorities of staff have approved proposed amendments to the university’s enterprise agreement designed to address COVID-19 caused income falls.

On a 2200 turnout, some 86 per cent of academic and 87 per cent of professional staff voting supported proposals put jointly by management and the two campus unions, the CPSU and NTEU.

Staff will accept deferral to 2022 of pay rises scheduled for this year and next and agree to work flexibility and a leave purchase plan, in return for no forced redundancies before April and some protections for fixed-term and casual staff, (CMM July 17).

However, there is no word on how many people will now be saved from the sack.

In a previous proposal from management for temporary pay-cuts the best-case on job losses was 150 (CMM June 5).

What it means: This is a good result for management. When it previously put savings options to staff without union endorsement they were rejected by 62 per cent of employees voting. But now the university has an agreement, without the industrial brawl that would likely have occurred if it tried to push through cuts to conditions within the existing terms of the enterprise agreement.

And it is a big win for the unions, with management having to negotiate with them. It is especially important for the national leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union, which wants universities to provide financial information on savings being made to an external committee including union representatives. Uni Wollongong has not agreed to this, but it has committed to brief the unions on “financial challenges and response” and to regularly update staff.