Message from DVC (Strategic Management): update on enterprise bargaining negotiations

8 April 2013

The questions we have received following the 26 March email from the Provost about the enterprise bargaining negotiations indicate that many of you, particularly those less closely involved, are finding the claims and counter claims of the University and the unions somewhat confusing. Let me try to clarify the University's position for you.

While the unions will have their own perspective, for us there are five key issues that need to be resolved before we could consider signing a Heads of Agreement with the unions.

  1. Change management: We do not want to reduce the amount of consultation required when we embark on change management. We do, however, want to cut down on the amount of documentation that is currently required. Not only is this an administrative burden, but it also draws the process out and makes it far more difficult for staff, who simply want a clear indication of what is planned and how it will impact them so that they can respond.
  2. Personal leave: We have already written about this at length, but I genuinely believe that what we are offering is - for the vast majority of staff - a much better deal. It allows people to use their accrued leave in a wider range of situations than the current arrangements and, by removing the existing caps on accrual of sick and carer's leave, it allows people to accrue more leave over time. However, this option is affordable only if we wind back the existing entitlement of 50 days sick leave per year.
  3. Fixed-term positions: The current agreement limits the situations in which we can engage staff on a fixed-term basis. This means we often have to employ people as casuals when a fixed-term engagement would better suit the University and the staff member. When we are not sure if there is an ongoing need for a position - such as when a program or organisational area is new, or where there is fluctuating student demand - we would like to be able to employ people on a fixed-term basis rather than as casuals, and this is what our proposal is trying to achieve.
  4. Performance management: The current performance improvement process requires staff who are not meeting their goals to work through an initial performance improvement plan (PIP). If this isn't successful, the process needs to be repeated, making performance management a lengthy and unsatisfactory process for both the staff member and the supervisor. Our proposal would give staff more initial support and time to improve their performance before it becomes necessary to put them through a single PIP process. It would still be possible to appeal against any decision taken as a result of the PIP.
  5. General staff redundancy: The unions wish to extend general staff redundancy payments to equate with those of the academic staff. While we are not seeking to reduce the severance payments for general staff, we wish to retain the current levels. This is not negotiable. Academic staff receive higher severance at the point of redundancy as their mobility is severely restricted, comparatively speaking. In the event of a redundancy and given the specialised roles of academic staff, it would require in most cases for them to relocate cities, states, countries. Alternatively they may need to engage in further education and training if they wanted to practise in a professional capacity, eg as a clinician, accountant, lawyer or school teacher.

These are the issues that we need to work through for the University to sign a Heads of Agreement with the unions. There are other issues that will need to be resolved, but we believe we can work through these after the 'Heads' has been signed.

Most of the feedback from staff acknowledged that a 7 percent pay rise is an unreasonable claim, and although most would like to see the University provide as good an increase as possible, we need to set it responsibly against relevant benchmarks. If we can secure changes to the unions' bargaining position that will generate some savings while further investing in staff initiatives, we can start to have a meaningful discussion about just what salary increase we might be able to provide.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Ann Brewer