A leaked roadmap from The Australia Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA) has revealed that universities are being advised on how to avoid multi-employer bargaining processes.
The AHEIA represents 32 tertiary education providers, many of which have been engaged in prolonged negotiations with the NTEU. The document advises on three enterprise bargaining scenarios, all of which fall under the new multi-employer bargaining reform that the Federal Government will place into effect in June.
In the leaked slides, the AHEIA advises universities to avoid being “roped in” to multi-employer bargaining, and encourages universities to present pay offers to staff directly — rather than through unions.
Attempts to present enterprise bargaining offers to staff have overwhelmingly failed at the University of Newcastle, Curtin University and Charles Darwin University, thanks to strong campaigns by the NTEU.
Multi-employer bargainings are agreements that cover more than one employer rather than separately established with each employer. This allows for collective bargaining to improve working conditions sector-wide, and amplifies workers’ negotiating power. If the AHEIA’s roadmap is followed, universities will consequentially create delays in achieving fair pay and working conditions, whilst offering bonuses as a distraction to wage theft, as has been done at the University of Sydney.
NTEU General Secretary Damien Cahill said, “we’ve suspected this was the case, with managements around Australia upending bargaining to put agreements to staff without union endorsement.
“Now the truth has been exposed. We are seeing deliberate tactics to rush staff into accepting offers that don’t give them fair pay rises.”
The AHEIA said that “there is unequivocally no “secret plan” in place to drive down wages in the sector.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus said that AHEIA was “effectively advising universities to pretend to bargain — to engage in bad faith bargaining as a means of gaming the system to keep wages low.
“Good faith bargaining is a requirement under law, and I doubt anyone will look kindly upon any employer who adopts strategies to avoid it.”
The AHEIA said that “there is not logical reason (sic) why a university would actively “pretend to bargain” and in doing so completely alienate their key stakeholder – their workers,” and described this claim as “rhetoric” unsupported by evidence.
The University of Sydney is not a member of AHEIA. Its NSW members include the University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University, and Western Sydney University.