NTEU slams Vice Chancellors for failure to protect universities

Statement by National Tertiary Education Union National President Dr Alison Barnes:

“The National Tertiary Education Union is appalled that greed and fear of scrutiny among university vice-chancellors have combined to derail the National Jobs Protection Framework, an agreement designed to save 12,000 jobs and preserve hard won conditions.

“Already we are seeing the consequences of their abandonment of the Framework with hundreds of casual and fixed term staff losing their jobs right now, and yesterday Deakin announcing the first 400 ongoing jobs to go.

“The NTEU approached negotiations with the Australian Higher Education Industry Association in good faith. At all stages we were assured that the Association had the support of the large majority of vice chancellors for a fair industry wide-solution to the current crisis. It’s now clear the AHEIA was either not representing a broad coalition of vice chancellors, or negotiated an agreement that gives employees more rights and protections than some vice chancellors were willing to tolerate. It is up to AHEIA to explain why at least 17 of its members have abandoned the solution it negotiated on behalf of the universities.

“The worst crisis in the history of Australian universities demanded a collective solution to save careers and livelihoods. Too many vice chancellors are now baulking at the strong oversight provisions in the jobs framework that guarantee transparency and ensure that any contribution our members make will be dedicated to saving jobs. Vice chancellors appear to have abandoned their industrial association, and demonstrated they are allergic to scrutiny. They are showing reckless disregard for their workforce.

“The requirement that senior executives also commit to salary reductions larger than could apply to staff is obviously also a factor for some. Sydney University Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Spence is paid $1.5m per year and blithely announced he would be keeping his full salary while simultaneously culling $90 million of casual employment from his university.

“NTEU will now escalate to what will be historically high levels of industrial disputation and campaigning to fight for every job. This could have been avoided. We have demonstrated that we are the only body that is prepared to provide leadership to fight for the future of the sector and its 200,000 employees. At all times we have been guided by job security and fairness in formulating this agreement which remains the best solution to the crisis in Australian universities.

“NTEU members will now continue to ramp up their campaign against the federal government and the Vice Chancellors who have abandoned their workforce. Dan Tehan and his colleagues have completely abandoned higher education at a time when $4.5 billion in revenue has disappeared from Australian universities. This is unforgivable and will seriously compromise Australia’s research and teaching effort as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The huge number of NTEU delegates, activists, committee members, and the membership generally must be congratulated for the productive way they are coming together to support the jobs of their colleagues. We will continue the fight for the future of our sector, with or without the help of the Vice Chancellors.

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