NTEU forces management backdown

March 25, 1998

By Jeremy Smith

MELBOURNE — In a move designed to provoke industrial action, management at Monash University cancelled all negotiations over enterprise bargaining at the end of February. National Tertiary, Education and Industry Union (NTEU) members at the university voted on March 5 for a 24-hour stoppage. Picket lines were established. It is estimated that 60-70% of staff observed the strike.

Monash University is the only higher education institution to agree to an enterprise agreement so far. The NTEU sought an agreement comparable to other universities. Management's offer of February 20 was unacceptable to the union.

Wage increases of 11-12% were to be implemented later than any other pay rise in higher education, the span of general staff hours would increase, and overtime would be reduced. Redundancy entitlements would worsen. Award conditions would also disappear under the terms of the Workplace Relations Act. Monash management sought to prolong negotiations longer than any other university.

Following the strike, and publicity about management's intransigence, Monash agreed to return to negotiations on March 12. Management agreed to a 12% increase over 22 months with no loss of basic award conditions. There will be no change in the span of hours for general staff and academic redundancy provisions will be revised.

Toni Bloodworth from the NTEU branch committee told Green Left Weekly: "Even staff that were originally opposed to a strike have since said it was a successful and correct move ... Management was worried we would build on the hugely successful strike and cause them unfavourable publicity if they continued to offer staff an inferior and unacceptable agreement."

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