Following a Fair Work Commission ruling in favour of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), University management have issued an apology to Grant Wheeler, the CPSU University of Sydney Branch President, for sending an all-staff email which included his name at the bottom without his consent.
After the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) reached an in-principle agreement with the university on their enterprise agreement on September 21, an email was sent under the Vice Chancellor’s signature to all university staff.
The email announced the in-principle agreement and included the signature of NTEU USyd branch president Kurt Iveson alongside Wheeler’s, despite neither the CPSU nor Wheeler himself having consented to the inclusion of his name.
According to an article posted to the website of the Public Service Association (PSA), the email “purported to be a joint announcement by the University, the NTEU Branch President, and the CPSU NSW Branch President” when, in fact, the CPSU had not, and still has not, come to an agreement with the university.
Wheeler told Honi, “the CPSU Branch Committee had decided that due to our members’ effective rejection of the University’s offer, and the University’s rejection of changes we wished to make to the all staff email, we were not in a position to endorse the email”.
Upon notifying the university of their intention to take the matter to the Fair Work Commission, the CPSU “received correspondence from both a Partner and Senior Associate of the law firm Clayton Utz, trying to convince us not to seek justice,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler and the CPSU proceeded to take the matter to the Fair Work Commission, who “only took a few minutes” to rule that the University should “issue an all staff email (Correction Email), A. advising its staff that Mr Wheeler did not: I. agree with the content of, and II. consent to his name appearing on, the email” and “unreservedly apologis[e] to Mr Wheeler for publishing his name on the email of 21 September 2017.”
On Thursday 12 October, Jodi Dickson, the University’s director of workplace relations, sent an email to all staff. It reads, “The circumstances that led to this error were that… prior to the email being sent to staff, Mr Wheeler had provided the CPSU logo to the University and had requested the addition of two words into the email”.
The email also states that “In all other respects, Mr Wheeler had consented to the text of the email … Mr Wheeler was, prior to the email being sent, given an opportunity to indicate his preferences regarding CPSU endorsement … but unfortunately it was sent to staff before Mr Wheeler could respond.”
“Although the email claims to apologise to me unreservedly, the CPSU believes that what follows that statement in the email is a series of reservations related to the apology,” Wheeler told Honi.
“We were ultimately only given 41 minutes to discuss the matter […] and report back before the email was ultimately sent. They did not wait for us to report back.”