NTEU members stand up to management at UQ

Hundreds support NTEU bargaining position at University of Queensland. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

Hundreds of people took part in a union rally to support a fair enterprise agreement at the University of Queensland on May 10. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) organised the industrial action in support of it's campaign.

NTEU branch president Andrew Bonnell told the rally that this was his fourth experience in negotiating an enterprise agreement at UQ and that it was "getting harder" to reach a resolution due to management intransigence.

Some improvements in conditions have already been agreed to by management such as ending the manifestly unfair practice of paying different rates of superannuation to different groups of casual workers.

On other issues, the university is refusing to continue meaningful engagement.

Job security is a key issue with approximately 3000 academic staff on casual contracts compared to 12-1300 with permanent positions.

Queensland Council of Unions secretary general Ros McLennan asked the crowd "why is university wanting to keep people on rolling fixed term contacts?"

"Is it because they think there will be no students next year?"

She told the crowd that management were obviously not "on the bones of their arse" and could afford to pay a fair pay rise.

She also said that the university is "not the buildings" and that "you can't live off your reputation for ever". She said that respecting workers' contributions is critical to the future of the university.

NTEU state secretary Michael McNally pointed out that one group of university employees - senior executives - had managed to get four per cent per year increases. This was much higher than the pay rises they were proposing for university staff.

McNally made a point of saying that "UQ can do better" pointing to the enterprise agreements with better conditions that had been won at other Queensland universities.

One of the most powerful contributions to the rally was by WA NTEU division secretary Gabe Gooding who spoke about the agressive industrial tactics of Murdoch university management in last year's negotiations. She said it was critical for university staff to take and continue taking industrial action. This was the way that Murdoch staff made a big win this year.

Bonnell made a similar point saying that "it doesn't matter how clever our arguments are at the negotiating table". Success depends on hundreds of members being prepared to come out and support the union's campaign.

Gooding also said it was important for the NTEU to stand up to university managements or else employer attacks would spread to wider layers of workers.

The rally was infused with support for the ACTU's Change the Rules campaign.