Staff at the University of Newcastle (UoN) today voted to reject a proposed Enterprise Agreement offered by UoN management that was widely criticised as inadequate.
The ballot saw 89% of Academic staff and 75% of Professional staff vote against the agreement, after the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the University of Newcastle Casuals Collective heavily lobbied against the proposed agreement.
It was put to staff in an online vote limited to a three-day voting period without union endorsement for the agreement nor for the method of voting. Casual staff at the University heavily criticised the ballot, citing that they were not permitted to cast votes.
The proposed agreement included a “9.5% salary rise across three years, six additional days of paid leave per year and more flexibility in the use of other leave,” said the University in a statement.
With inflation reaching 7% in September, the pay agreement would have represented a real pay cut for staff.
The proposed agreement proposed no means of reducing the rate of casualised work, the workloads of casualised staff nor the job security of casual workers, with their limited access to leave proposed to be unchanged. The agreement also contained no commitment to undertake an audit into wage theft, despite the ‘contractual norm’ of wage theft in Australian universities.
The University of Newcastle reported an $185 million surplus in 2021. It was forced to pay staff $6.2 million dollars in stolen wages earlier this year.
NSW Division Secretary of the NTEU Vince Caughley told Honi, “this is a fantastic result. It’s a crystal-clear message to UoN management that their proposals are unacceptable, that their attempt to ram through deals just before shutdown was foolhardy, and the only way to get a deal is with the NTEU.
“As our members have said loud and clear: we want secure jobs, safe workloads, and fair pay.
“The result is also a pretty clear demonstration of the risks involved for any other university management entertaining a non-union ballot.”
Vice Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said in a statement, “we felt it was important to give staff an opportunity to vote on our proposed agreements after 15 months of negotiations.
“We’ve heard clearly that the package of benefits we are offering in the new agreements isn’t right yet.”
Negotiations between the parties have been ongoing for 14 months. Staff undertook a 24-hour strike in September this year as part of negotiations.