James Cook U staff back management savings proposal

It’s a big win by a tiny margin

The university’s proposal to vary the enterprise agreement was passed 51 per cent to 49 per cent, with 59 per cent of eligible staff turning out.

The vote means delaying a scheduled pay rise, longer Christmas close-downs in 2020 and ’21 and a voluntary leave purchase scheme, among other savings. In return Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding says there will be “a minimum” 70 jobs saved, no forced redundancies or stand-downs for the life of the agreement and “provisions” to assist fixed-term and casual staff, (CMM September 9 and 10)

The university took the calculated risk of putting its proposal to staff, without union agreement after talks failed on a joint approach (CMM September 14). Universities that put agreement variations to staff which campus unions oppose generally lose. A vote at ANU is the only recent exception to the rule, where management won and by the same minute margin as JCU, (50.46 per cent).

The next tests staff willingness to accept reduced employment conditions to protect jobs will be at Murdoch U and Victoria U, where managements propose enterprise agreement variations campus unions oppose.