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NTEU log of claims tackles cutbacks

The NTEU present a draft of worker's claims in advance of upcoming EBA negotiations, in the hope of reducing staff redundancies.

NTEU protestors waving small purple flags and carrying a purple National Tertiary Education Union banner Image Source: NTEU Sydney Branch

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has drafted a log of claims for the University of Sydney addressing staff involvement in decision-making, workforce casualisation, and fair pay.

The document was presented to the University on Thursday, March 9, in anticipation of negotiations for the 2017 Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) with the university.

The EBA will determine University employment conditions for the next three years, and will be developed through negotiations between the University, the NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

The negotiations coincide with major restructuring of degrees and faculties, including the amalgamation of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, the Sydney College of the Arts, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

The NTEU hopes to tackle possible associated cutbacks by requesting “no forced redundancies”.

In the recent science faculty restructure, the NTEU fought to reduce staff redundancies and salary cutbacks.

Kurt Iveson, the University of Sydney NTEU branch president, told Honi, “If such changes are implemented across the other Faculties, [the claim against forced redundancies] will be particularly important.”

“In an institution this big, everyone should have a right to alternative work somewhere in the University if their current position is no longer required”.

The log of claims also focuses on improving support for casual staff, corresponding with the NTEU’s #IStandWithCasuals campaign.

The campaign calls for inclusion of casual staff and denounces exploitation of labour, arguing that casual staff serve as backfill teaching and allow academics extra research time.

Iveson told Honi, “lots of face-to-face teaching — and not just tutorials — is done by casuals, many of whom have been teaching the same courses for years on insecure casual contracts,” and that many of the casuals are undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Iveson believes “students would no doubt be appalled” by how little casual tutors are paid for consultations and marking time, and that they perform a “vital service on precarious casual contracts”.

The NTEU is fighting for “improvements for casual staff on issues like unpaid work, conversion to more permanent employment, and ending discrimination in superannuation”.

Other points in the log of claims include a 15 per cent increase to staff salaries by 2020, and that staff receive a 17 per cent employer contribution to superannuation. The University currently pays 10.5 per cent.

It also states that if work is no longer required, this must be acknowledged by all affected employees, and that following retrenchment, the work must cease. This is to prevent the rehiring of staff to do the same work for a lower salary, or the retrenchment of staff in favour of electronic systems completing their work.

A University spokesperson told Honi the University is now awaiting a log of claims from the CPSU, after which it will consider both claims and assess university priorities before reaching a response.

They further emphasised a commitment “to seeing our staff continue to benefit from sector-leading conditions”.

So far the bargaining process appears less hostile than in 2013, when the EBA campaign involved bitter disputes over salary increases, contention between the NTEU and CPSU, and seven days of strikes.

The process lasted 18 months before the NTEU accepted the University’s EBA offer and cancelled a planned 72-hour strike.