UNE crunched, kapowed and kaboomed in Fair Work Commission

The University of New England lost a case in the Fair Work Commission last week, which means it cannot yet establish a new workload model in its faculty of humanities, arts and social sciences and education (CMM April 3).  But this wasn’t management’s only problem, it was crunched, kapowed and kaboomed in the hearing.

UNE was crunched over the substance of the case, with Commissioner Johns not allowing it to introduce its new workload model, which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union argued is not in accord with the existing enterprise agreement. “The problem with the university’s argument is that it necessarily follows that, in order to defeat an academic workload model that the university does not like, all the university has to do is to restructure the schools. Then the university can argue that no academic workload policy applies until one is voted up by the staff in each of the new schools. It seems unlikely that was the objective intention of the parties when the agreement was negotiated,” the commissioner’s judgement states.

Management was kapowed over its application for Commissioner Johns to recuse himself “on the basis of an apprehension of bias” in draft orders he provided to the parties.

“What was clear from the comments made by me was that I was affording all parties procedural fairness by furnishing them with draft orders for them to consider. On the resumption of the hearing I invited preliminary comments. I made it clear was not going to hold the parties to them. It would have been very clear to a fair-minded lay observer that I had not even formed a provisional view about the application before me. I expressed no view about the matters before, let alone strong views,” he wrote.

And UNE was kaboomed when it unsuccessfully applied to have independent counsel argue its case, although Catherine Pugsley from the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association was there for the university, as were UNE’s chief legal and governance officer, Brendan Peet and a senior legal officer, Katrina Warden. UNE’s lawyer argued, “the university was unable to effectively represent itself through its internal lawyers.” However, Commissioner Johns was not having it and Ms Pugsley presented the university’s case.


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