Fears university eyeing unprecedented tactics to drive down pay and conditions


31 May 2023

The National Tertiary Education Union has expressed serious concerns the University of Newcastle is preparing to game new workplace laws to drive down pay and conditions.

The University of Newcastle has applied for the Fair Work Commission to deal with a bargaining dispute after NTEU members rejected management’s settlement offer. 

The scope of the university’s application is broad, and includes key workplace rights of University staff.

The NTEU fears this is proof management wants to use new intractable bargaining processes to gut staff working conditions. These new laws come into effect from June 6.

NTEU members at the University of Newcastle will strike for 24 hours on Thursday when there will be a community rally in Newcastle CBD.

To access an intractable bargaining determination, disputes must have been previously referred to the Commission.

The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA) gave advice on how employers can access intractable bargaining processes in a strategy roadmap leaked in March.  

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Alex Zelinsky sits on the executive of AHEIA, which highlights intractable bargaining disputes as a way to “redress poor clauses”.

NTEU General Secretary Damien Cahill said:

“Universities that pursue unprecedented anti-worker tactics in an attempt to cut pay and gut conditions will meet strong resistance.

“Pay and conditions being decided through arbitration will likely leave staff worse off than an agreement between the NTEU and management.

“Universities that find common ground with the NTEU always reach deals which benefit staff, students and the institution.

“Instead, the University of Newcastle is determined to undermine pay and conditions by using the bosses’ association’s disgraceful industrial game plan. It’s little surprise the Vice-Chancellor sits on AHEIA’s executive committee.

“University of Newcastle’s last attempt to sideline the union from bargaining led to a humiliating defeat when staff overwhelmingly voted against a substandard pay deal in December.

“That vote sent a loud and clear message to management that staff want the union to negotiate a fair outcome with management. But they have ignored that message and appear hellbent on using every last tactic to avoid enterprise bargaining.

“The NTEU is drawing a line in the sand. We will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to use workplace laws to sideline workers.”

Contact: Matt Coughlan 0400 561 480 / [email protected]

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