National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of New South Wales will vote on the next steps in protracted enterprise bargaining negotiations with the university's management.
The Industrial Relations Commission approved an application from the NTEU to consult the membership by ballot on possible industrial and other actions to improve pay and conditions. The secret ballot opened on August 12.
The old enterprise agreements expired in March. The university has pushed to keep the old agreements, made under John Howard's Work Choices laws, with minimal changes.
The union is seeking a 20% pay rise over three years, but it has emphasised that its claim is not just about a pay rise. Its claims also cover work load regulation, job security, improved career opportunities and the restoration of employee rights lost under Work Choices.
The union also wants better protection of staff superannuation contributions, fair pay and superannuation for fixed-term and casual staff and a local pay schedule for trainees.
"The Howard government has been booted out, and we now have new work place laws", NTEU UNSW Branch President Susan Price told Green Left Weekly.
"Our new agreement should reflect this fact and recognise the role that our union plays in representing staff. We're seeking improvements in pay, conditions and job security for casual and fixed-term staff, and guarantees that all UNSW staff are afforded intellectual freedom."
Despite the NTEU's requests for more meetings, university management has committed to only two hours of negotiation a week. Price said the union would continue to bargain with the university, even with its delaying tactics.
"Members have been very keen to get new agreements — particularly in the current economic climate," she said.
"They have been volunteering to join the campaign, and the NTEU has signed up many new members as part of it.
"Conditions for all staff — academic, professional and technical at UNSW — have been among the best in Australia and we want to keep it that way.
"The Vice Chancellor has a fight on his hands if he thinks that the old agreements can simply be rolled over."