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WA NTEU attempting to stifle democracy at Murdoch Uni

The proposed protocols have been met with widespread dissent from the rank-and-file.

A set of protocols which would suppress democracy and debate within the Murdoch University NTEU branch are currently being voted on by members of the Branch Committee.

Prepared by the Western Australian Division Secretary of the NTEU, Cathy Moore, and distributed to the Branch committee on 6 November, the protocols, if passed, would prevent advocacy “amongst the membership positions at variance with Union decisions.”

Nick Everett, an NTEU Branch committee member and workplace delegate at Murdoch told Honi that “this would prohibit me, for example, from advocating that the Murdoch branch membership repeal these protocols at a general meeting of members, if adopted by a majority of the Branch Committee.”

Speaking on the practical implications if passed, Everett says, “it would also have prevented me from advocating members vote against the ‘Jobs Protection Framework’ after the JPF had been adopted as union policy by the NTEU National Executive.”

The JPF has since been defeated as a national project following widespread opposition from the rank-and-file membership, though several campuses have adopted iterations of the framework, including La Trobe, Monash University and the University of Western Australia.

The protocols, Everett says, would also make it “the responsibility of all committee members and delegates…to always support the implementation of democratic decisions in a positive manner to members and prospective members.”

If implemented, this would commit branch committee members and delegates to continue to support the NTEU’s decisions, even if they disagree with such decisions and believe them to be harmful. 

“Under these protocols, committee members and delegates would be obliged to defend these agreements ‘in a positive manner’ even where they have clearly failed to prevent the loss of jobs they claimed to protect,” Everett says.

Significantly, Monash and La Trobe have both announced considerable job cuts, and redundancies, despite the fact that the premise of the JPF was to save jobs. 

Additionally, La Trobe’s Vice-Chancellor John Dewar this week announced plans to cut humanities and Education courses.

Importantly, the protocols also forbid “anyone [from sharing] internal discussions externally.” Of course, given the differences between the leadership and rank-and-file membership, many rank-and-file members view this as an attempt to reduce transparency and debate within the Union.

This follows the NTEU National Council’s recent vote (71 – 41) to not reinstate delegate access to lists of members, despite this being a common practice previously. Honi understands this was revoked in light of debates around the JPF.

NTEU Fightback, a group of rank-and-file members formed in opposition to the JPF, have produced an open letter calling on the Murdoch Branch Committee to vote against the proposed protocols. Groups such as the National Higher Education Action Network (NHEAN) and the USyd Casuals Network have also endorsed this letter.

The vote, initially scheduled for Monday 9 November, is now taking place via email ballot, after Monday’s meeting was inquorate. Voting on the protocols closes tomorrow.

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