University workers debate offer


By Nick Soudakoff Canberra — A mass meeting of university workers on January 30 voted to reject the federal government's offer of a 5.6% wage increase funded by a loan at 4% interest.The meeting voted to begin a "low intensity" industrial campaign during the elections, followed by a 24-hour stop-work in March. The two-hour meeting of some 800 union members canvassed a variety of opinions with regard to the long-running dispute. The National Tertiary Education and Industry Union's position is not to accept the loans for wages scheme and to continue the campaign throughout the elections. On the other hand, the unions covering general staff wanted to accept the offer and deal with the consequences later, so as not to upset the ALP's Federal Election chances. In fact, the national office of the Community and Public Sector Union had already accepted the offer despite local CPSU members voting against it. The NTEU's general secretary, Grahame McCulloch, told the combined meeting that the strongest response throughout the campaign has been in Canberra. This would appear to account for the overwhelming rejection of the pro-ALP unions' proposal to "take the money and run". Sue Bull, Democratic Socialist spokesperson for industrial relations and candidate for Canberra, said, "The craven behaviour of some unions, now that the elections have been called, is appalling to see. If the unions do take this offer, they will be paying for it in jobs and conditions for years to come." The NTEU national executive was due to meet on February 5 to prepare recommendations to be put to mass meetings of members.