At the end of May, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) logged all but three universities with a bold set of claims.
The new round of collective bargaining includes claims for a 27% pay increase; enforceable regulation of limits on workloads; an extensive Indigenous employment strategy; provisions for ongoing employment; improved parental leave and superannuation; and expanded union rights.
The overall strategy runs for three years, but is broken into two rounds of agreements to allow compliance with new industrial laws and fresh public funding expected in 2010. An important part of the union's campaign is the demand for a return of conditions lost in the last years of the Howard government.
NTEU national assistant secretary Ted Murphy singled out contract employment, according to the May 6 Australian Financial Review. "Now that the HEWRRS (Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements) have gone we will be seeking greater security of employment for staff", he said. Murphy noted that the use of contracts had increased 8.3% in recent years, according to government figures. Employers sounded opposition to the claims, setting the scene for industrial battles in coming months.
Despite significant expansion of private university revenues in recent years, the employer association head, Ian Argall, said that the salary claim was "extravagant", according to the AFR article.
Three universities are negotiating ahead of the pack. Charles Darwin University has a non-union agreement. The Australian National University and the University of Ballarat are leading sites in this round of bargaining. Negotiations are well advanced at the University of Ballarat, while the ANU is pushing a performance pay scheme.
[Jeremy Smith is branch president of the NTEU at the University of Ballarat and a member of the Socialist Alliance.]