Victoria University staff have decisively rejected management’s offer for a new enterprise agreement. The proposal included improvements on the deal staff knocked back in September .
The best management could make of yesterday’s announcement was that this loss wasn’t as large as the first one, with 33 per cent of staff voting, approving the deal, compared to 23 per cent supporting the first offer (CMM September 25 2018). The university is also pleased that nearly 70 per cent of staff voted this time (up from around 55 per cent last year), which “shows a larger number of you taking an active interest in your future Enterprise Agreement.”
Good, but way not good enough. This is a big defeat, signalling to management that a long period of disruption caused by financial woes and restructure plans has had an impact. In essence when the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and management talk about pay and conditions, more staff believe the comrades.
There were suggestions last night of the union taking industrial action – but it is hard to see why it would. Victoria U does not have much alternative to going back to bargaining – where the union will likely see no need to make concessions on the pay-rise it wants and workplace conditions it is determined to keep.
Sure, there is an apparent alternative for the university, problem is, it isn’t real. Management could do what Murdoch U talked of doing with an expired enterprise agreement (but didn’t) – revert to the generally worse pay and conditions under the industry award. Except VU can’t. Back in 2017 Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins, said, “as is standard practice, the existing agreement will continue to operate after its expiry date, until it is replaced by a new agreement,” (CMM October 31 2017).