About 150 members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University have been stood down after taking part in lawful and protected industrial action.
The union put a ban on the transmission of student results after more than two years of negotiations failed to make progress on improving job security, pay and other conditions for staff. A key sticking point in the negotiations is management’s unregulated use of fixed-term contracts and casual employment.
The NTEU has signed agreements with 30 universities that have reinstated regulation of the use of fixed-term contracts and the restoration of other workplace rights lost as a result of the Howard Government’s Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRRs) and WorkChoices.
In 2009, between 40% and 50% of university staff were on fixed-term contracts.
However, management at UNSW and Macquarie University have refused to agree to greater job security.
NTEU UNSW branch president Sarah Gregson said the union was reluctant to take action that affects students, but that the action was necessary to ensure a decent outcome for staff and students.
Many students “can't get consultation time with their teachers because their teachers are casuals and only paid for class time”, she said.
“In business-speak, Hilmer is 'externalising risk' but, in our case, the brunt of that risk is being borne, not by the university which is budgeting for a $95 million surplus this year, but by employees and their families.”
The staff members involved in the industrial action have offered to perform all their regular duties except the transmission of student results — which they say accounts for about 1% of their workload. However, management has rejected this and is refusing to pay these staff until the bans are lifted.
As the holiday season nears, the union says staff, some of who are casuals or relatively low paid.
NTEU general secretary Grahame McCulloch has sent out an urgent message calling for solidarity with the staff at UNSW and Macquarie University. He called for donations to the union’s fighting fund, which will be used to assist union members experiencing financial hardship because of the stand downs. Visit www.nteu.org.au/myunion/get_involved/fighting_fund/donate .