Message from the Vice-Chancellor: enterprise bargaining update

12 February 2013

In recent weeks, the NTEU has been circulating messages about the progress of enterprise bargaining, including comment on what it describes as a "management agenda" to roll back staff conditions.

We believe all staff members should do their own research to decide where they stand on these issues, and the best way to do that is to read the proposed Enterprise Agreement itself.

To help you appreciate exactly what the University has proposed, we have also made available on the Enterprise Bargaining website information which explains some of the principal clauses in the proposed EA that relate to staff conditions.

In particular, please consider the following:

  • We cannot expect any increase in funding from the federal government, so the only way we could afford a big salary increase is by taking more students or radically cutting costs. Neither of these measures should be embraced wholesale, so our salary proposal is necessarily modest.
  • If we fund generous salary increases by not investing in infrastructure, many staff and students will continue to work and study in inadequate conditions. We will not be able to attract the best researchers and most promising students and we risk making our overall academic and financial situation much worse in the future.
  • Curtin and CQU were only able to afford a 4 percent pay increase because they reached agreement to move 25 percent of their academic staff to teaching-only roles. We do not think that is an appropriate move for the University of Sydney. In any case, our current salaries are, as you might expect, still higher than theirs even with their 4 percent increase.
  • The University is committed to academic freedom: our Charter of Academic Freedom (PDF, 33 KB) makes that abundantly clear.
  • The proposals for managing change are not about abandoning due process and consultation. The current agreement has four separate steps, the complexity of which increases anxiety and uncertainty for staff. Our proposal is to have three formal steps rather than four but continues consultation with affected staff throughout the whole process.
  • Our current leave provisions are both prescriptive and restrictive. Our proposal is to allow staff the flexibility to adapt their leave to their specific needs, so if, for example, someone needs more than the 10 days of carer's leave currently allowed, they will have the flexibility to take more from their sick leave entitlement. While we have put a limit on total entitlement, we believe the increase in flexibility will benefit staff and is a reasonable way of reconciling competing needs and obligations.

The University of Sydney's working conditions and salaries are the equal of, and in many instances more generous than, our Go8 counterparts. The proposed enterprise agreement aims to maintain this advantage while allowing the University to manage the rapidly changing nature of the higher education sector and safeguard its future.

Yours sincerely

Michael Spence