Vice Chancellors defy NTEU and take wage offers direct to workers

Michael Spence is asking the UniSyd community what they would like to be asked

The University of Sydney is polling staff for their opinion of its enterprise agreement offer. Not that the university is asking people whether they endorse the offer, just whether management should put it to a vote.

“Given it appears we will not be able to gain union endorsement of our proposal, and conscious that we wish to avoid disruption for our students and staff, we are now seeking feedback from the broader staff community about whether we should move to a formal vote on the university’s proposal,” Vice Chancellor Michael Spence told staff last night.

The university is offering annual salary increases, starting in July, of 2.1 per cent per annum across the life of the agreement, without major trade-offs on conditions. As such this offer is at the generous end of the current round. However, to date the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has hung tough for a better deal.

If a staff majority support the proposal of management’s offer being put then it will go to a formal vote,  regardless of the union’s position.

This is done rarely. In the last bargaining round Andrew Vann at Charles Sturt University won a vote over the active opposition of the NTEU, but with the support of another union on campus. However, the long in-place convention across universities is that management and union settle on terms and jointly recommend an offer.

This could still happen at UniSydney but only if the university loses this first vote, the union backs down or there is a now unexpected outbreak of peace.

Which does not look likely. The NTEU is urging staff to vote against “management’s push poll” which the union sees as an attempt to undermine its standing on campus.

“This is a radical attempt to undermine the role of unions and collective bargaining at the University of Sydney.

The fact that the vice chancellor has sent this message to you while even today we have been seeking further meetings to discuss acceptable outcomes … is both disrespectful to all staff. It should not be allowed to stand.”

But if it does it will be a major defeat for the union. Last week the Fair Work Commission cancelled the effect of the expired union-negotiated agreement at Murdoch University. The NTEU cannot afford another loss, especially if it is at the hands of staff, not the FWC.

James Cook management ignores union and goes direct to staff

Last night James Cook U DVC Tricia Brand announced that it had talked enough with the campus unions and that it would put its enterprise agreement offer to a staff vote, starting Wednesday next.

“After 41 meetings, all parties have made their positions clear.  We do not think that this will change with further meetings.  It is our staff who determine whether they want this agreement, through voting. … While we understand that the NTEU represents approximately 400 staff who are members, university wishes to ensure that all of its approximately 4500 staff, including NTEU members, can be heard in relation to the proposed EA.”

This is a direct challenge to the union’s standing at James Cook U.