In an attempt to divide staff, on September 13 management at Macquarie University (MQ) proposed to split the current Enterprise Agreement in two, and tried to ram through a second-rate agreement for general staff.
If successful this would mean MQ general staff would have the worst conditions of any of the 26 agreements across Australian universities. This has angered the local National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) branch.
The NTEU is campaigning to defeat the push by calling for a “No” vote in a ballot of general staff set to open on September 23.
According to the NTEU MQ branch website, management’s offer will “freeze negotiations on pay and conditions until 30 September 2014”, leaving MQ general staff up to two years behind other universities in the next round of enterprise bargaining.
The agreement offers no provision on job security for staff, making MQ the first university to not limit the use of fixed-term and casual employment since the repeal of former PM John Howard’s Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRRs) in 2008.
Under HEWRRs, a significant portion of university funding was conditional on deregulating the workforce.
Management’s offer of a 4% a year pay rise is also well below the average rise of 4.6% a year achieved across other agreements signed.
Management broke off negotiations with the NTEU, which covers all university academic and general staff, in order to present general staff with an inferior agreement to academics.
A split agreement is supported by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which only covers general staff.
In September 2009, University of New England management successfully pushed through a similar agreement, meaning general staff now have inferior conditions in comparison with their academic colleagues.
NTEU members at the University of New South Wales will meet on September 20 to vote on whether to support or reject a similar move by local management, who, together with the CPSU, want to vote on an agreement for general staff before academic staff bargaining finishes.
UNSW management’s offer is similar to MQ’s in that it has a substandard pay offer and no limits on the use of casual or fixed-term contracts.