Griffith U going it alone on savings proposal

Talks to establish a joint management-unions savings plan to put to staff appear to have failed

What’s happened: The university is now expected to go it alone, asking the workforce to endorse enterprise agreement variations to make COVID-19 savings.

Observers suggest there are significant outstanding issues between the university and National Tertiary Education Union, including a guarantee of no retrenchments during the period covered and an independent panel over-sighting management savings, both of which the union wants and management does not. Concessions on conditions and wage increases staff would make if a deal was done are estimated to be worth around $10m.

Where this comes from: Back in May Griffith U said no to the Job Protection Framework, designed by four VCs and the federal leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union in response to the COVID-10 caused cash crisis across the system. This accord requires universities making as many non-staff savings as possible and employees agreeing to temporary cuts in employment conditions. The shared objective is to reduce the number of involuntary redundancies.

In May VC, Carolyn Evans said the deal was not for Griffith U for a range of reasons, one of which was it included an independent committee, with a union member, to check if managements had made all possible savings. This Professor Evans, said, “would be incongruent with the role of council,” (CMM May 22).

The VC said Griffith U would come up with its own savings plan and work with the campus unions to reach agreement on required variations to the enterprise agreement.

Which does not look like happening now.

What happens next: If management asks staff to back a condition-cuts for jobs-saved proposal without the support of either, or both, the two unions, it could well lose the vote.

This has already occurred at the University of Melbourne, Southern Cross U and, in a local variation, Uni Wollongong.  At all three the NTEU campaigned hard against the management plan. Staff at ANU backed management against the union, but by a slim margin.

For talks to start again at Griffith U would require management to agree to the independent oversight committee or the NTEU to give it up.