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Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1578      January 23, 2013

Industrial action on agenda over enterprise bargaining

Staff at the University of Sydney and the University of New England will vote in the next month over industrial action on enterprise bargaining, following successful applications to Fair Work Australia by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

Neither university contested the union’s applications for protected industrial action ballots.

Michael Thomson, the NTEU branch president at the University of Sydney, said that the ballot would most likely be held in early February with members voting on different forms of industrial action: one hour stoppages, 24 hour stoppages, and indefinite stoppages.

“University of Sydney management is offering less job security and wants to reduce sick leave entitlements and cut academic workload provisions. Management is refusing to limit the numbers of academic casuals and is trying to wind back provisions for fixed-term staff to convert to ongoing positions,” he said.

“Staff are still bruised from last year’s job cuts and are angry at the lack of progress with the enterprise bargaining negotiations. Enough is enough.”

University of Sydney management also proposes to remove classification protections for general staff and intellectual freedom provisions. The NTEU lodged its Log of Claims for a new Enterprise Agreement on August 7 last year, with management agreeing to only nine meetings in six months.

Thomson said that university staff are campaigning for an agreement that improves the career prospects of general staff and academics in their early careers.

“Members met and voted unanimously to condemn the management proposals and to embark on an industrial campaign. If the membership ballot gets up, it is likely we’ll be taking industrial action in the first week of teaching, March 4-8.”

At the University of New England (UNE), negotiations on the academic Enterprise Agreement have stalled, after eight months of negotiations.

Dr Tim Battin, NTEU President at UNE, said that no agreement on any of the matters has been achieved.

“Our main focus in this round is with the extent of arbitrary decision-making on the part of management and the abuse of power, but despite the great patience of the NTEU team in presenting its claims with reason and evidence, no movement from the management is forthcoming.

“For English language teachers, the best qualified in the sector but among the most poorly paid, the ‘bargaining’ has recently commenced, but already the obdurate stance of the management is obvious. The management of UNE could not even agree to the straightforward matter of coverage of the language teachers. That tells you something about a pig-headed approach that is unlikely to change without industrial action.

“All indications are that management will adopt the same stance for general/professional staff, but we wish to give this our specific attention over the coming weeks, and ballot our general/professional staff colleagues in due course.”

The UNE ballot of academic staff and English language teachers will occur in the first half of February, with members voting on ten different forms of action, including work-to-rule, stoppages, and bans on particular activities. If the ballot is successful, members will take industrial action from early March.

At the College of Law, staff voted 40 yes, 89 no against a management’s enterprise agreement which would have reduced existing conditions at the college in a number of ways, including abolishing the automatic incremental increase staff receive on the anniversary of their employment for performance-based pay. The vote involved College of Law staff across NSW, Victoria, WA and Queensland.  

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