Bargaining Update # 7

Our Swinburne – An Agreement that Works for You

This week's bargaining was difficult and disappointing. 

Each week, you and we are told that 'Swinburne [management] has committed to taking feedback into consideration'. 

There is little evidence of this being true. 

With only a handful of exceptions, management has not amended its proposals and they have not responded to ours. All we can say definitively is that management's approach to bargaining has been consistent. 

Page by page, clause by clause, management has put forward claims that would remove protections, remove due process, remove appeal rights, remove requirements for genuine consultation before decisions are made, and downgrade conditions. Regardless of whether these are simply ambit claims on its part or whether this is the final agenda, it is an approach to bargaining that is disrespectful to the staff at this university.

This week we heard about management's proposed changes to Academic Workload

These changes would see a 105-hour increase in annual allocated hours for all ongoing academics, as the current (and insufficient) 10% unallocated hours would be removed. Management has also stated that it wants to introduce trimesters and remove the current clause stipulating caps on teaching hours (see 15.1.2 (g) in the current agreement).

The proposals also include a new education-focused 'pathway'. This would allow for an 80% teaching load spread over 42-44 weeks, with no capacity to transition to a teaching and research pathway (except via promotion) and, unlike teachers in vocational education, no allocation to ensure that education-focused academics can maintain currency in their discipline. In response to our questions, management confirmed that they do not intend to limit the number of new appointments designated as education-focused. If this is allowed to proceed as proposed, it will mean a hollowing out of conditions for the next generation of academics. 

Here is a recap of some of management's proposals:

All Staff:

  • Removal of protections around performance and misconduct allegations.
  • Expansion of available punishments for minor misconduct or performance review, including withholding annual increments and dismissal.
  • Removal of joint management-NTEU investigation committee for serious misconduct allegations, to be replaced by a management-appointed investigator.
  • Removal of appeal rights for arbitrary dismissal during probation periods.
  • Removal of employer obligations to consult with staff before a decision on major change is made. 

Professional Staff: 

  • Increased span of ordinary hours, from 8 am-6 pm to 7 am-8.30 pm.
  • Removal of employer-employee reclassification committee. Reclassification would be determined by P&C alone.

Academic Staff:

  • Increase of annual allocated hours from 1620 to 1725.
  • The removal of the clause that stipulates caps on teaching from the agreement.
  • The introduction of trimesters.
  • The introduction of an education-focused role, with 80% teaching load across 42-44 weeks; no capacity to transition to teaching and research roles except via promotion; no provision for maintenance of discipline currency; no cap on the number of new appointments designated as education-focused.

This week marked our seventh bargaining meeting. This was ample time for management to demonstrate its willingness to genuinely bargain. It has not done so. 

Next week, we'll call member meetings to plan how we might counter management's attempts to strip conditions from the new agreement. Please help us to spread the word among colleagues not yet in the union. They can join here.

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