Solidarity not forever as NTEU splits at UniSydney

The National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney is split over management’s bargaining offer

The schism comes a bare fortnight after the union had a huge win, convincing a decisive majority of staff who voted to reject a management proposal to put its wage offer to a formal vote. But now the union’s campus leadership is divided over recommending the university’s offer or holding out for a better deal.

As per its repeated commitment, management has not increased its last pay offer, which stands at a headline rate of 2.1 per annum over four years. However, supporters of settling on the union side point to a management concessions. These include a range of job security and family/carers leave benefits, flexible hours and extending 17 per cent superannuation for all fixed term staff, but not casuals. Management has also agreed to NTEU proposals, which reflect UniSyd’s activist culture, staff involvement on academic workloads and procedures to engage staff in the creation of change proposals. Management knocked back electing deans and heads of schools but what it did accept gives staff, and the union, a significant role.

The union is now split, between officials and members who want to accept the deal and those who want to push management into doing more for casual staff. Last night 25 casuals urged NTEU members to reject management’s existing offer. “Casuals have some of the worst conditions and deserve better. There are the casuals that have been teaching languages for close to 20 years, with no job security, no paid leave, and far less superannuation than other staff. There are the casuals that were sacked en masse in the student centre without any redundancy package. In every hallway of the university, there are casuals stressed and underpaid, lacking support.”

Thy also argued that better terms for casual staff could create more permanent jobs. “By winning our key demands of equal superannuation and sick leave for casuals, we would make it more expensive for the university to hire casuals. This would force management to think about putting long-term casuals into more permanent positions, while also improving conditions for those that remain as casuals.”

Opponents of accepting management’s offer are meeting tomorrow ahead of a general meeting of NTEU members on Thursday.