Bargaining Update # 17

Our Swinburne – An Agreement that Works for You

There are signs that our industrial bans are starting to have an effect. 

The executive's bargaining team has promised to provide a full amended draft of their clauses by mid-July. This should give us a real sense of whether they have moved on crucial issues or whether we must escalate our campaign to secure hard-won conditions, protections, and mechanisms to address unsustainable workloads. 

Last week, we also saw how the executive has upped the ante by requiring managers to note which staff members uphold industrial bans. This strategy, which is inherently intimidatory, is unsurprising in the current context; if any member is concerned, please contact us. Linda has written a guide on your rights and responsibilities when undertaking industrial action, which you can read here. Today, we have sent a notice of industrial action to the VC to ban the use of Workday for registering participation in industrial action. This will take effect from Monday 10 July. In the meantime, we recommend that members comply with any request to lodge their participation in industrial action. 

Additional frustrations in our last bargaining meeting centred on the executive's rejection of our claim that student feedback should not be used as the basis to discipline or judge an academic's performance. The research shows these surveys are biased in several ways, including against women and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We also know that when the surveys are done voluntarily, they can carry a large margin of error and are not statistically valid. 

A second frustration revolved around the executive's proposals on intellectual freedom. If accepted, the university could limit academic freedom and remove intellectual freedom entirely for professional staff. What is at stake here is the capacity to criticise the executive's decisions without risking disciplinary action. Given the questionable nature of some decisions being made at the university (including the latest that Swinburne is pausing enrolments in the National Institute of Circus Arts), it is imperative that staff can voice their concerns without the added fear of being disciplined for doing so. 

According to the Age, the justification for the possible closure of NICA is that 'the university was defined and inspired by technology and innovation and that “the courses we offer need to match that”'. On what planet is the anonymous Swinburne spokesperson if they believe a world-renowned and unique course on circus arts is not innovative? We urge the spokesperson and the decision-makers to re-read the history of our university before making such baseless claims. Swinburne was created to provide students with a 'well-rounded and practical education' – it serves no one well if our executive's present stunted understanding of 'technology' narrows our capacity to do this. 

Given the innumerable poor decisions across the institution, the increased stress levels among staff, and the general malaise, it's time for a major rethink of where this university is heading. If the current executive believes there is nothing to see in the mass exodus of staff, we are in for a fall. To People and Culture, we say: there are serious problems at our institution. Ignore them at your peril.


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