Union wins landmark workload case against USC at Fair Work Commission

National Tertiary Education Union

The National Tertiary Education Union has won a landmark case against the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) at the Fair Work Commission, reinforcing the workloads clause in the union’s Enterprise Agreement (EA).

The University had developed and implemented workload models which significantly underestimated the time taken to perform teaching related duties including preparation, student consultation, administration, unit/course coordination, honours and masters supervision, and marking.

The NTEU asserted that this model was inconsistent with the new requirements of the Agreement.

After many attempts to resolve the matter through negotiation and conciliation, the NTEU took the issue to arbitration, with two days of hearings in early August and extensive witness evidence and lengthy written submissions from both sides.

Fair Work Commissioner Simpson issued his decision yesterday which agreed with the union’s criticism of the Workload Model.

The Commissioner found that the Model did not comply with the requirements of the Agreement in that it is not based on quantitative standards and “strays too far from what the evidence indicates would be a median amount of time required to do the work described in the current model.”

He agreed with the NTEU that the time allowed under the Model for the teaching-related duties associated with lectures, tutorials, and unit coordination was insufficient.

Associate Professor Lin Fung, an academic from USC’s School of Health and Behavioural Sciences who appeared as a witness for the NTEU, hailed the win.

“The Commissioner’s findings will enable all USC staff to continue to provide high quality teaching in a sustainable way, and to actually have time to do research – wins for staff, students and USC,” Associate Professor Fung said.

Associate Professor Andrew Bonnell, an academic from UQ who appeared as a witness for the NTEU, said that managements’ across the country could learn from this decision.

“It’s really unfortunate that USC management came up with workload models that short-changed their hard-working staff so much. Academic work is highly complex but we do have expertise in this area if people choose to ask us.”

NTEU Queensland Division Secretary Michael McNally thanked the brave members who fought for this decision.

“We couldn’t have won this case without our members at USC stepping up to take the witness stand and call out USC management’s ridiculous workload allocations,” Mr McNally said.

“The Commissioner found that the workload models weren’t based on quantitative standards, which is what members have been saying all along”

“It was pretty clear, even to someone without any detailed knowledge, that a workload model that allocated zero hours for coordinating courses of less than 50 students was deeply flawed.”

“It will be interesting to see how USC management reacts. Will they work with NTEU and staff to create quantitative standards that reflect the time it takes to do the work, or will they appeal and try to continue to undervalue academic work?”

“Academic staff across the country have their work undercounted and undervalued by dodgy workload models, and this decision will shake that status quo at the foundations”

“NTEU threw their best and brightest industrial team at this with staff from Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the National Industrial and Legal Team working together to secure this outstanding victory.”

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