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NTEU heads to FWC over Anderson Stuart evictions

Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence's consultation deal was unanimously rejected

Photo of Anderson Stuart Building from Law Lawns

The National Tertiary and Education Union (NTEU) unanimously voted to escalate its dispute with the University to the Fair Work Commission after rejecting a deal from Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence in a meeting last Wednesday.

That relocation — first reported by Honi in January — separates researchers into several locations including Australian Technology Park, as early as June this year.

Spence’s deal offered to issue a draft change proposal to consult with staff on “where staff will move,” and not the “ultimate rationale of the move,” according to faculty sources.

Under the deal, the proposal did not include an option for staff to remain in Anderson Stuart.

To date, the University maintains that a formal change process is not required for the relocation.

The University has also withheld work, health and safety (WHS) reports from staff which, according to Dean Robyn Ward, highlight building risks justifying the relocation.

Amidst ongoing inspections, an email from Head of School John Hunt last month flagged specific risks relating to the “decanting of flammable liquids.”

A GIPA request filed by Honi confirmed the existence of spreadsheets compiled from audits of the building’s labs, as well as a confidential submission to the Senate’s People and Culture Committee in November 2018, outlining a review and action plan for the building.

A University spokesperson said reports compiled from WHS inspections of the building are “yet to be completed and remain under legal privilege.”

A senior lecturer within the University told Honi that the NTEU intends to argue the relocation decision constitutes a “relocation of work units,” and requires a formal consultation process.

University Provost Stephen Garton, writing to the NTEU, stated that consultation is only required for “a relocation of a work unit inside the organisational structure and not a relocation of physical location.” It is the University’s view that the relocation is a not a matter of assets or work units.

“We believe the decision to close the wet labs is a decision about University assets and the relocation of staff is a consequence of the decision about the asset,” a uni spokesperson said.

NTEU Branch President Kurt Iveson described the current mood of staff in the building as “angry and upset.” A source within the building confirmed this, describing staff as “feeling beaten down by the process,” and citing the constant surveillance as a result of ongoing inspections.

“It’s one of the worst examples of top-down managerialism I have seen here,” Iveson said.