Fair Work dismisses Charles Darwin University’s enterprise agreement due to voting irregularities

"It's time to return to the negotiating table so we can reach an agreement that gives staff the fair pay rise they deserve while protecting against casualisation.”

The Fair Work Commission has dismissed Charles Darwin University’s non-union enterprise agreement application due to voting irregularities in management’s non-union ballot. 

Last year, on 18 November, academic and professional staff voted to accept the new enterprise agreement with the University. Of the 59% of staff who voted, 62% voted yes. 

The win was deemed invalid as the University allowed fixed term contract staff, who were not employed on the days of the ballot, to vote. 

“The Commission’s decision is a circuit breaker against a plan to cut staff pay in real terms and remove crucial workplace rights,” said National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) General Secretary Damien Cahill.

Though management said the agreement includes “a pay rise, a sign-on payment, additional leave, new leave and increased flexibility”, the NTEU opposed it as it cuts real wages and reduces job security. 

Under the agreement, staff whose performance has been deemed unsatisfactory or accused of misconduct would have their right to an independent review removed.

Referring to the $500 one-off payment, NTEU Northern Territory Branch President Darius Pfitzner said, “dangling a cash sugar hit in front of staff facing soaring cost of living pressures in the run up to Christmas is a cynical distraction from what a real wages cut will mean.”

Despite the University recording a $62 million surplus in 2021, CDU staff had gone 16 months without a pay rise up until negotiations around the new agreement last November. 

Management proposed a four per cent pay rise with a further two per cent in October 2023 and two per cent in October 2024. However, with inflation at around eight per cent, the agreement would give CDU staff a real wage cut.

Though Vice-Chancellor Scott Bowman has suggested an appeal could be on the cards, Cahill said, “we want a short, sharp negotiation to lock in an agreement which gives staff a proper pay rise to help everyone keep up with the soaring cost of living.”

The decision comes after staff at the University of Newcastle overwhelmingly rejected a proposed non-union enterprise agreement in December.