Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) voted yesterday (Wednesday) to resume industrial action after rejecting management’s proposal to finalise negotiations. The deal faltered over management’s desire to be able to unilaterally change the definition of whether an academic is ‘research active’ – something which attracts a reduced teaching load compared to “Teaching Focused’ academic staff.
“The current (2014) Enterprise Agreement requires management to get agreement from the NTEU if they want to change the definition of who is ‘research active’ and who isn’t,” said NTEU Queensland Secretary, Michael McNally. “If they can change the goal posts unilaterally, they can make more academics Teaching Focused and significantly increase their teaching loads,” McNally added.
“At the moment they need our agreement, but they want to just have to go through a process of consultation. Everyone in the University sector knows what ‘consultation’ means; it means management ask staff what they think about a proposal and then go ahead and do it regardless of what staff say,” McNally said. “Staff opinion surveys consistently say two things: staff don’t trust senior management and senior management handle change poorly”, he added.
“This is disappointing for our members given we lifted our ban on student assessments in good faith on the undertakings of the Vice-Chancellor to finalise negotiations,” said NTEU USC Branch President, Shirley Callaghan. “They know our members can’t agree to allow management to ratchet up workloads for a significant group of staff,” Callaghan said. “Why haven’t management sought to change the definition with our agreement during the past 4 years? You can’t help but suspect that it’s because they want to shift the goal posts further than our members would accept is reasonable.”
“We are meeting management next week and we are always hopeful for a negotiated solution,” Callaghan said. “Our members were pretty clear today though,” Callaghan added.