The ABC of industrial relations at Uni Sydney

New VC Mark Scott tells Uni Sydney student newspaper Honi Soit that technology is going to change things

“We have got to manage the changes that are put on us now, but recognise that, in the next five to ten years, there’ll be significant disruption in the sector,” he says.

It’s straight out of Professor Scott’s (that’s professor of practice) ABC playbook. As MD there he made substantial and essential changes in expanding the broadcaster’s digital delivery and although there was ample industrial uproar during his term he got much done.

The Scott style is to make a case for change and then under-promise and over-deliver on implementation. And do it so skilfully that staff who fear change either accept it as inevitable, or protest with little impact.

He told Honi Soit, “as I speak to our experts about teaching here on campus, they’re not saying ‘less face-to-face,’ they’re challenging how best to use that face-to-face. In an era where we have the ubiquity of technology, you expect that traditional model to be challenged, and I think that’s a good thing.”

And so, it seems, with enterprise bargaining underway, there will be change – including to a fundamental way things have long been done at Uni Sydney, the 40-40-20 allocation of academic time for teaching, research and service.

Professor Scott says “I expect that, under any circumstances, the majority of our staff would end up with a 40:40:20 result.”

However, he adds, “I suspect some flexibility here is valuable, to allow some to be specialist teachers, others to be specialist researchers, and for us to be able to ensure that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach across an industrial agreement may not be the best outcome for our researchers, our teachers and the university as a whole.

“I know there are differing views, so let’s have that discussion.”

Good-o, except that the university appears to have made up its policy-mind that there should be change and the discussion should be about how it applies.

As the university’s enterprise agreement proposal puts it,

“This one size fits all approach is no longer suited to the diversity of our academic staff, or enables those academic career paths that we believe the university needs to support our ambitions for education and research in the future.  This model is more rigid than any other university in Australia.”

So, what’s to discuss?

“The proposed approach for the new EA will be to allocate academic work based on the needs of the University and an academic’s skills, competence, expertise, outputs and interests. There will continue to be consultation with staff about their planned allocation, to ensure that both the University’s needs and the academics’ needs are taken into account,” the EA prop states.