The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) yesterday announced that their members, the staff at the University of Melbourne, will be going on strike next Wednesday May 9 from 9am-1pm. The NTEU has decided to stop work and strike as a result of stalled negotiations on the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), which details the pay, hours of work, breaks, and other working conditions for all university staff, including teachers.
Some of the main issues that the NTEU are fighting for include maintaining staff-to-student ratios in classes and maintaining a commitment to intellectual freedom for staff. These issues don’t only affect staff, the outcome of these negotiations will affect how you are taught at university. The NTEU is committed to fighting to maintain these standards so that class sizes will not increase and face-to-face time with tutors is not lost.
This strike has been called as a final resort for the NTEU in proceeding with the stalled negations. This industrial action is a way to pressure the University to make concession to ensure that protections within the EBA leave staff and students better off.
UMSU encourages all students to stand in solidarity with the NTEU. You can support our staff and teachers by joining our contingent with NTEU members to the Change the Rules rally on Wednesday 9 May, and not coming to classes from 9am-1pm that day.
Sign the petition in support of the NTEU
Join the rally via this Facebook event: UMSU Supports the NTEU Strike – Contingent to Change the Rules.
For further updates follow the UMSU Education Facebook page
What’s going on with University staff?
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the union for all staff at the University, is currently holding a ballot asking its members on our campus whether to go on strike.
At the moment, all staff are covered by an “enterprise bargaining agreement”, or EBA – a big document that details pay, breaks and other conditions. It has to be re-negotiated every few years and the University has been in enterprise bargaining for the past 13 months.
What are the issues?
The NTEU is calling for industrial action as negotiations have now stalled on a few pivotal points of difference. University staff are fighting to:
- Keep a single Enterprise Agreement, so that the Uni will continue to treat the staff who teach you and the staff who manage your degree in the same way.
- Keep protections to academic freedom of staff in the Enterprise Agreement
- Oppose proposed changes to limit incremental progression for Uni staff at the level of HEW 6 and above.
- Maintain the existing commitment to staff/student ratios, so workloads do not increase. Currently across Australia, university staff work sometimes up to 50 hours per week.
- Keep a commitment to reach targets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the agreement
However, a vote of NTEU members, known as a Protected Action Ballot, must be taken before staff can strike. In this ballot, staff must vote on the types of industrial action they may take. This may range from staff refusing to work overtime, not transmitting results to the University, to simply refusing to work at all. Staff of the University of Melbourne who are members of the NTEU will be able to vote on this online ballot, which is open until 12 noon on Friday, April 27.
Why UMSU’s role is important
It is important that all unions, including student unions, support one another. UMSU stands in solidarity with trade unions and we support the right of unions to take action in order to improve the conditions of people at work.
Just as there exists a wide network of student unions that exist at different universities to advocate for students, trade unions are organisations that exist at workplaces so workers can come together to achieve common goals at work. Many of the work rights we take for granted including the 8 hour day, weekends and penalty rates for overtime and weekend work were all won by workers standing together in the union movement.
When negotiations reach a standstill, often employees and employers will look for other ways to move forward. A tool that many unions have used to put pressure on employers to gain better working conditions and settle workplace disputes is industrial action: where workers strike, ban or limit the amount of work they do.
We support the NTEU in their fight to maintain the working conditions of staff at this university. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and UMSU stands in solidarity with the staff of this university as they seek to improve their workplace rights.
How to cast your vote before April 27:
Join your trade union:
Words by Will Higginbotham and Michelle See-Tho
Government funding cuts to the University of Melbourne might not hit students and staff as hard as they fear. The university expects to see cuts of up to $150 million over the next four years. But the chancellery is responding to potential reductions in public funding by remodelling its administrative sector.
The potential cuts and a “wafer thin” surplus are pressuring the university to make its administration setup more efficient, according to Senior Vice-Principal Mr Ian Marshman.
The scheduled changes have raised concerns about professional job losses and effects on students.
University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) President Declan McGonigle criticised the university for not consulting more with students about the changes.
“Students have been left in the dark about what’s happening,” he said.
However, according to Provost Professor Margaret Sheil, the university liaised with some students through focus groups. “We’ve involved as many students as we can,” she said.
Many staff and students are concerned that funding cuts might lead to job losses. Yet Professor Sheil and Mr Marshman maintain there are no planned redundancies.
“The goal isn’t to cut jobs,” Professor Sheil said. “We’ve just announced savings targets and some of that will be through procurement and some of it will be through natural attrition.” She said there was even the possibility of an increase in academic staff if administrative costs are reallocated.
National Tertiary Education Union Branch President Ted Clark is less optimistic. “It looks like … there may actually be job losses. But we don’t know where those job losses are. We haven’t been informed of that at all.”
Despite his concerns, Mr Clark said the NTEU is not opposed to trying to increase the university’s efficiency.
According to Mr Marshman, the university’s administrative restructure will involve condensing the existing 11 different administrative divisions into one. “If we can get a lot of [administration] done consistently, once, by professional people, we think we’ll do a better service for students, and we’ll actually save some money, as a result of doing it more efficiently,” Mr Marshman said.
Professor Sheil also told Farrago no academic courses at the university would be cut under the changes. She maintained the “angst” other universities have about reducing programs
is not present at Melbourne. “We are not actually cutting any academic programs,” she said.
However, Mr Clark is more concerned about professional staff having intense vocational work. He feels remaining staff may “suffer work intensification” in order to make services more efficient, but admits this might not happen. Mr Clark cited initial issues with the Integrated Student Information System (ISIS, an online management system mostly used by staff at the university), as the reason for his concerns. He said ISIS’s introduction “meant there was a lot more work for the professional staff, even though it was supposed to be more automated.”
The changes are being implemented as part of the university’s Business Improvement Program, launched in December 2013. The program will be rolled out over the next 18 months. The new model is intended to streamline the university’s back-office functions, save money, and re-invest it into resources and teaching.