NTEU Bargaining Update Meeting 36, 21/3/23

Bargaining update: a partial offer from management

Following last week’s strike action, yesterday’s bargaining session saw significant movement from management on a range of issues. This movement was presented in the form of two packages, one for professional staff and one for academics. Management’s position is that, if we accept these packages – and only if we do so – they will make an improved pay offer. However, they are refusing to tell us what this pay offer will be, and they have made it clear that if we reject the packages, their current – unacceptable – pay offer stands. They are, in other words, asking us to accept a suite of proposals in exchange for a salary offer they are not even prepared to disclose. I don’t think I need to comment on how unreasonable this is.

There can be no doubt that the packages management presented yesterday bring us significantly closer to agreement. As such, they are testament to the effectiveness of our campaign. Before outlining the positives in them, we need to be clear about the key areas where the packages do not yet embody an agreement that is acceptable:

  • All staff: management have not yet made an improved pay offer, though they say they will if we accept the packages, but they have not given any indication of when the offer will be made or what it will be.
  • Professional staff advertising: management are still refusing to maintain priority advertising of HEO 8 vacancies.
  • Academic staff: management are still refusing a 20% cap on Education-focussed roles. They are also rejecting our compromise, which is the 25% cap they seek with only a 60% teaching allocation, not the 70% allocation that EFRs currently have. Management’s proposal will usher in a major reconfiguration of the academic workforce, continue the decline of 40:40:20 staff in the workforce, and constitutes a fundamental attack on the teaching-research nexus, as we have described in this fact sheet.

The following paragraphs detail the main features of the professional and academic staff packages that management are putting forward. It’s important to repeat that if we accept these packages, management tell us that they have an ‘improved’ pay offer. Note that none of these lists is exhaustive. We will shortly be providing a more complete summary of the state of negotiation (about which members have been informed at great length in the regular bargaining updates). In the meantime, the most important features of management’s packages are as follows:

Professional staff (including casuals)

  • flexible work and work from home: major improvements (as described in previous updates);
  • workload regulation: a workload monitoring committee that establishes an entirely new mechanism for regulating professional staff overwork (offer described in previous updates);
  • job-security: rejection of our no-forced redundancies claim, but agreement to an extended redeployment period for HEO1-7, that would give professional staff whose positions are made redundant nine paid months employment during which management try to redeploy them into a suitable alternative position (new offer made yesterday as a result of NTEU pressure);
  • an eligibility list so that current professional staff who applied for a position and who were appointable without being the successful candidate, are offered the position if it becomes vacant again within 12 months (offer as previously described);
  • an increase in the Professional Staff Development fund;
  • Other provisions, described in the previous bargaining update.

Academic staff (including casuals)

  • an abandonment of the attack on 40:40:20 (new offer made yesterday);
  • a 25% cap on Education-focussed roles, with a 70% allocation for teaching, 20% for research and 10% for service. Management say that the 25% figure is a cap, not a target. But it would allow the employment of around 650 staff, including around 400 new, without the same research rights as other academics. The 70% teaching allocation will be subject to regulation and review through a three-person faculty panel with a union appointee and will not be automatically scaled up from the 40% allocation in 40:40:20 roles (offer as described previously). There will be transition rights for EF staff to move into 40:40:20 roles as long as they meet the research expectations of the EF role;
  • If EFs in a faculty or a university school (i.e. Law, ADP or the Conservatorium) were to exceed 25%, it would be subject to a report to the Joint Consultative Committee (new offer made yesterday);
  • A commitment to pay casuals for all hours they are required to work, with a review mechanism in cases where a casual believes that they are not being properly paid (offer as described previously);
  • decasualisation: a commitment to reduce the overuse of academic casuals by 20%;
  • decasualisation: 330 new jobs (30 more than previously offered), of which 220 will be EFs, and 110 40:40:20 positions. 25% of the EF roles will be prioritised for existing casuals and fixed-term staff. 50% of the 40:40:20 roles will be pathway roles for existing casuals;
  • the establishment of PhD fellows to give casuals greater job-security;
  • the establishment of professional practitioner positions.

In addition to the professional and academic packages, some reminders about what management are proposing (a) for all staff, (b) for First Nations staff specifically, and (c) for Centre for English Teaching Staff.

All staff (including casuals)

  • a greatly improved casual conversion clause (as previously described);
  • a commitment to five days’ paid sick leave for casuals. This will not be included directly in the agreement, as we wanted, but it will become university policy within 12 months of the agreement starting. Management will committ in the agreement itself to special casual leave for sickness which will be introduced within twelve months. This will allow us to enforce it through the Fair Work Commission if, after a year, the sick leave provisions have not been implemented;
  • a pay offer that improves on what is currently on the table – how much improved, management refuse to say;
  • significantly improved leave conditions, including a 30 day available block of paid gender affirmation leave which can be used across years.  If this is exhausted, staff can also access paid personal leave (see 17 May 2022 bargaining summary);
  • 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave for casuals (legislated entitlement which management were obliged to implement);
  • New commitments to evidence-based improvements (for instance, in career-development) for staff with disabilities
  • some small improvements to the managing change clause, but a refusal to accept our claim that change proposals have to be agreed on by staff to be implemented.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff

  • Population parity: not yet agreed; productive discussions are underway, as reported in the previous bargaining update;
  • establishment of a dedicated Joint Consultative Committee for indigenous employment;
  • recognition of cultural load;
  • consultation in the development of the cultural safety policy;
  • language allowance;
  • increased cultural leave from 5 to 7 days.

Centre for English Teaching (CET) Staff

  • Abolition of the obligation to maintain 31 full-time staff. Management want to be able to significantly reduce the guaranteed number of ongoing staff – a massive threat to future job-security since extra work will be farmed out to casuals;
  • however, the existing approximately 22 staff will retain their jobs;
  • staff no longer to be funding-contingent but to be made ongoing and most conditions converted to the ongoing professional staff conditions of the agreement, as requested;

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