At a Stop Work meeting on August 2, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the Ourimbah Campus of the University of Newcastle, unanimously voted to hold a half-day strike on Wednesday, August 15, if their key demands for working conditions aren’t met.
NTEU members held the stop-work meeting to discuss progress being made in enterprise bargaining. This followed the recent implementation of a lower level industrial action by NTEU members in support of their efforts to reach an agreement. “Unfortunately, university management is failing to meaningfully engage with NTEU members’ claims for improved job security and pathways to secure employment”, NTEU Newcastle Branch President, Associate Professor Tom Griffiths, said.
“Despite the lack of evidence to support the need for change, UoN management continues to advocate for major reductions in existing processes dealing with staff performance, staff probation, and organisational change. “Disappointingly, university management has failed to agree to more equitable provision of superannuation for staff, something that has been resolved in the majority of new enterprise agreements across the sector. “Members want management to work with us to deliver new Enterprise Agreements that acknowledge the excellent work of UoN staff with fair working conditions.
“NTEU has notified university management that industrial action will escalate if, at a minimum, three key issues are not resolved by Monday, August 27. The first issue was maintaining existing consultative processes for managing organisational change. The second was maintaining committee structures for disciplinary processes. The third was providing real pathways for staff locked into casual and contract employment to apply for conversion into more secure work. “These matters can, and should be, easily resolved, and NTEU members remain ready to bargain in good faith to achieve fair enterprise agreements for all staff. “The University left us with no alternative,” Griffith said. “We have been in enterprise bargaining for over 12 months and have made no progress on claims that we believe are reasonable.
Job insecurity for casual and part time staff is an issue for many Australian Universities and something that has been an issue for the University of Newcastle for many years, according to Professor Griffi hs. “There is a proposal from university management to change how they do organisational change and restructuring that will result in people losing their jobs. “The university is required to undergo wide consultation processes and allow feedback to be provided by staff, and to look for alternatives to sacking people,” Professor Griffiths said. Professor Griffiths said that university management was planning to “do away with” consulting processes for smaller level changes. “We have often heard from the university about financial constraints, and that what we’re proposing is unaffordable and will send them broke.
“Rather, we have put out documents showing that the university is in good financial health and can maintain current facilities.” In a written statement, UON’s management said: “The university was disappointed in the NTEU’s decision to take industrial action. “Negotiating the terms and conditions for a diverse workforce for a four year period takes time, however we believe we are in the advanced stages of bargaining. “Our aim is to ensure the university’s long-term financial sustainability, so that staff can enjoy the greatest degree of job security. “It is our understanding that the 90 minute stop work had minimal impact on students, given the small number of NTEU members participating. “We regret any disruption to our students’ studies during this time.”
Source: Interview, Aug 2 Tom Griffiths, National Tertiary Education Union, University of Newcastle Branch Media Release, Aug 2 National Tertiary Education Union, University of Newcastle Branch Media statement, Aug 2 UoN Corporate Communications Elizabeth Green, Journalist