Delegates to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National Council, the union’s annual conference, condemned Murdoch University and Victoria University managements’ anti-union attacks and called for enterprise agreements to be terminated only where workers and unions agree.
The union has also filed an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) seeking urgent conciliation with Murdoch University, alleging the university failed to respond to requests to meet to continue bargaining, failed to provide information requested by the NTEU, failed to give details of its own bargaining position and failed to respond to the union’s bargaining position. The NTEU alleged breaches of good faith bargaining and asked FWC to intervene to bring university management back to the negotiating table and to recommence negotiations for a replacement enterprise agreement, after the previous agreement was terminated on September 26.
The National Council called for the rules to be changed so that employers cannot terminate enterprise agreements after their nominal expiry date without workers’ consent, solely on the grounds that it is “not contrary to the public interest” to do so. The Council said such terminations unfairly undercut conditions and shift the balance of power in bargaining to the employer.
Delegates also called for the appointment of Fair Work Commissioners to be rebalanced given that the vast majority of appointees to the FWC over the past 20 years have had employer backgrounds. The Council said the FWC’s decisions have advantaged employers more and more, meaning justice for working people is now more challenging than ever.
The Council condemned Victoria University management’s attacks on the union, noting it cannot be a coincidence that three of the four branch officers at the university, including the president, vice president professional staff and branch secretary, have been targeted for retrenchment, as well as a number of other prominent Branch Committee members.
In its change plan documentation, Victoria University management claims to be seeking a “transformation” of the workforce, which apparently involves targeting union activists for redundancy.
Victoria University management have recently hired HR staff from Patricks and the Country Fire Authority, organisations that have a long history of “union bashing”. There have been continual attacks on union members over the distribution of union information as well as attempts to suppress the union’s newsletter.
The union said Murdoch University’s behaviour is not what would be expected from an employer that genuinely wants to negotiate an agreement with its staff. But it is entirely consistent with the behaviour of other employers that tried to force an inadequate deal on their workforce.
The National Council called on all branches to support members who are under attack and asked all Victorian branches to support the union protest in Melbourne on November 2.