Federation Uni to go on three-day strike

The Victorian university is offering staff what amounts to a 2.2% per annum pay rise, despite inflation persisting at seven per cent.

Staff at Federation University have voted to take three days of rolling strike action in the first week of May, which will coincide with the National Tertiary Education Union’s (NTEU) National Week of Action. 

The triple 24-hour stoppages will occur between 2-4 May at the University’s Berwick, Mt Helen and Churchill campuses. Rallies will be held at 12:30 p.m. each day.

Members of the NTEU’s FedUni Branch voted to take strike action due to the University’s failure to meet key demands in ongoing enterprise bargaining. 

The Victorian university is offering staff what amounts to a 2.2% per annum pay rise, despite inflation persisting at seven per cent. This offer is lower than inflation pay rises offered at many other Australian universities, including at the University of Sydney. The NTEU is seeking a pay rise which would equate to a 3.3% annual pay rise, across the likely 54-month long agreement. 

FedUni NTEU Branch President Matthew Abbott said in a statement, “this is not just a ‘lowball’ salary offer, but a genuinely disrespectful one.

“Staff members are dealing with the impacts of inflation and rises in the costs of living, after accepting a low offer from senior management in the last round of bargaining.”

University management are refusing to allow staff the right to disconnect — a position which the Union claims is unenforceable. They are also refusing the Union’s demands to offer better protections against the outsourcing of work, fairer classification of professional staff, and for 17% superannuation for casual employees (although has indicated the potential for this position to shift).

Improved parental leave, casual conversion and First Nations staff hiring processes are issues still being discussed between the parties, as are redundancy policies and consultation requirements which would improve job certainty for staff.

NTEU Industrial Organiser at FedUni, Colin Muir, said “It is beyond disappointing that the university continues to reject our reasonable proposals on these issues… They say they want FedUni to become an ‘employer of choice’ in the regions, but they are not prepared to make the changes required to achieve this.”

While its 2022 annual report is yet to be delivered, FedUni recorded a $33.1 million operating surplus in 2021.

“The university has very substantial cash reserves and can easily afford a fair wage increase,” Abbott said. 

“It is beyond time for the university to invest properly in staff, high quality teaching, and proper student support. This is the only way to make our university sustainable.”

Staff at universities across Australia will strike in the first week of May, as part of the NTEU’s National Week of Action. 

Members of the NTEU at the University of Sydney were set to also take three-day strike action in the first week of May, before choosing to call off the Week Ten strikes at a recent Branch meeting.