Swinburne employees engaged in industrial action stood down without pay

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has threatened legal action if the move is not reversed.

All employees taking part in an industrial action were told to stand down without pay by Swinburne University (SU) on Friday. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Australian Education Union (AEU) have condemned the University’s move, threatening to pursue legal action if SU does not return to the bargaining table. 

The employees, who were teaching Swinburne TAFE courses, were engaged in a limited work ban as part of a two-year campaign for better pay and superannuation parity with other Swinburne staff.

The work bans have seen staff refuse to do extra duties outside of their position description, record student attendance, attend meetings, and use online systems.

Under the Fair Work Act (2009), employers can stand down employees without pay “during a period in which the employee cannot usefully be employed.” Employees can only be stood down if the industrial action makes useful employment unavailable.

In a press release, NTEU Victorian Division Assistant Secretary Sarah Roberts described the University’s actions as disproportionate.

“It’s shocking University management would resort to such extreme tactics in response to a basic request for workers to receive a fair pay rise and superannuation in line with their colleagues,” Roberts said.

“It’s astounding Swinburne would take this step knowing full well students will pay the price for management’s refusal to engage constructively with the unions.” 

Both Roberts and AEU Victorian Branch President Meredith Peace condemned the impacts the stand downs would have on students. 

“Standing down staff will stop TAFE courses being delivered at Swinburne because students will not have teachers to deliver them,“ Pearce said. 

The unions emphasised that they would continue to fight, threatening the University with legal action.

“The University has left us in a difficult position by escalating the matter to this extent. We have no option but to undertake legal action if they do not withdraw their notice and return to the bargaining table,” Pearce said.