On Tuesday, a fortnight later than we had wanted, the NTEU bargaining team resumed negotiations with management in a hybrid meeting on the top floor of the F23 ‘Michael Spence’ building. Since August, we’ve largely met with frustrating resistance to our vision of a better and fairer university. So it’s pleasing to report that on one area at least – different aspects of leave – the Bargaining Team are now making some encouraging progress, which we’ll be in touch about soon.
However, on our major priorities for this bargaining round, management have still not indicated any willingness to accept our proposals. In particular, they still haven’t withdrawn their plan to remove protections against overwork, and they’re still propsing to strip academics’ right to a 40% research component in their workload. Our priorities in this round address the very real problems we all face in our work. NTEU members have proposed solutions that offer real protections against overwork, make forced redundancy a thing of the past, put an end to exploitative casualisation, make performance and change management non-punitive and consensual, establish the right to flexible work and work-from-home arrangements for professional staff, and embody a real commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets. I’m sorry to report that on all these crucial issues, our position and management’s are still miles apart.
It’s essential to the integrity of the bargaining process that staff be frankly informed about the union’s and management’s positions. So it was unfortunate that the Vice-Chancellor told everyone in an email last week that under management’s proposal for the new agreement, ‘the majority of our continuing academic staff will continue to be employed in teaching and research positions with a traditional 40/40/20 workload allocation’. Some members have understandably interpreted this as management backing down from their original intention to take the right to 40/40/20 out of the Enterprise Agreement. It’s important that everyone understands that despite the VC’s message, no such backdown is happening, that management’s bargaining position is unchanged, and that they are still proposing to remove the right to 40/40/20 from the EA.
From the start, management have claimed that their intention is to retain 40/40/20 as the reference point for academics on teaching and research contracts. Intentions are all very well – but what matters is the legally enforceable protections staff are given in the EA. Regardless of what Mark Scott claims about what he wants or plans to do, management are still proposing to remove a right to 40/40/20, and still want to force academics to negotiate their teaching-research balance one-on-one with their head of school every year. Our position is very clear: you don’t signal commitment to 40/40/20 by striking it out of the agreement.
The NTEU maintains its belief that this is the most serious attack on staff rights at the university for many, many years. We think that it will only contribute to the intensification of already-out-of-control teaching workloads and degrade the quality of education at the institution. In contrast, our proposal for the future of academic work, which was overwhelmingly endorsed by members at our meeting last week, represents a serious and realistic plan both to regulate academic workload and to end exploitative casualisation.