Deakin U says it’s considering staff feedback

 On Thursday, the Fair Work Commission directed Deakin U to consult with staff and unions at a whole-of-university level on proposed job losses. The university has been talking to staff separately, in 15 operating units where it proposed to reduce positions

Where this came from: The National Tertiary Education Union argued that this should occur at an all of university level. The union has long held that management should discuss overall alternatives to its proposal to cut 300 jobs leave 100 empty positions unfilled.

The Fair Work Commission agreed about all-of-university consultations, ordering Deakin U, “to embark on consultation with the NTEU and affected staff at the university-wide level,” (CMM July 31).

And so, on Friday the university announced, “we will create an on-line resource where staff can view each of the major workplace change proposals. In addition to feedback already provided to the university, staff will have the opportunity to provide further feedback on the major workplace change proposals.”

Staff who have already commented on operating unit proposals need do no more. “All existing feedback will be considered along with anything further that we receive prior to the university making any decisions about how to proceed.”

So, that’s that:  Certainly, if, staff comments constitute consultation. In her Thursday judgement, Commissioner Bissett stated; “the right to be consulted is a substantive right, it is not to be treated perfunctorily or as a mere formality.  Inherent in the obligation to consult is the requirement to provide a genuine opportunity for the affected party to express a view about a proposed change in order to seek to persuade the decision maker to adopt a different course of action.”

And now the union says of the management’s new message, “on the face of it, what they have announced to staff does not seem to be consistent with the commission’s decision.” Official Linda Gale says the NTEU expects to meet management this week.

The back-story:  There is less divide than chasm separating university leadership from the union and aggrieved members of staff in the way they want COVID-19 savings to be found.

In May, Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told staff that council had approved a new strategic plan which includes COVID-19 savings and would be implemented under the university’s enterprise agreement. He explicitly ruled out the then proposed accord on savings, on offer to all universities, based on union and management hammering out an agreement. This included universities submitting proposed savings to an external committee, including a union representative as one condition on staff accepting cuts to conditions. (CMM May 26). “Our council is responsible for setting the overall strategic pathway for Deakin U, and the framework will constrain its ability to decide what is in the best short, medium, and longer-term interests of the university. That independent governance oversight has served Deakin very well in balancing the needs of now and the imperatives for the future,” Professor Martin said (CMM May 26).

Which upset some staff – there have been two open letter to Professor Martin calling for consultation on the university’s future, with one complaining about, “the ‘top-down’ nature of your decision-making (CMM June 3).