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: