Monash U staff back VC Gardner

Staff endorsed Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner’s cost-cuts plan with a thumping 89 per cent of the vote

What they backed: Professor Gardener put a not especially appealing COVID-19 response plan to the university community. Staff savings include, *freezing all increment progressions to July ’21, * deferring the Enterprise Agreement’s 2 per cent pay rise, due in December, to July next year, * redeploying staff, * staff reducing leave balances above 30 days and * an optional five-day leave purchase, (CMM June 11).

In return, Professor Gardner promised voluntary separations before compulsory redundancies and a range of protections for pay and conditions. The VC was up-front about exits, stating the university needs savings that translate to 467 positions but that the proposal would save 190 of them.

The agreement now goes to the Fair Work Commission for approval.

A big win for Gardner: Professor Gardner worked hard in an uncertain environment to convince staff that the proposal was the best way going to protect jobs. She was clearly conscious that a win was not assured – explaining its importance in all-staff message on the Friday night before the polls opened.

What else helped was sticking to the process, and terms, under the cuts for jobs accord she and three other VCs negotiated with the federal leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union.

Before the all-staff vote NTEU members at Monash U approved the proposal with an 83 per cent majority – all the more impressive given the NTEU branch leadership stayed neutral (CMM June 22).

The turn-out in the all staff vote was 50 per cent.

There’s a lesson here: Three of the VCs (Gardner, Dewar-La Trobe U, den Hollander-UWA) who negotiated the accord with the NTEU now have savings plans staff accept. In contrast, Uni Melbourne and Uni Wollongong put savings proposals the union opposed to a staff vote and lost. A third, Brian Schmidt at ANU, won the vote for a union-opposed savings plan, but only just – with a yes vote of 50.46 per cent (CMM June 25).

Most university staff are not union members, but when it comes to protecting wages and conditions, they listen to the comrades.