Proposed enterprise agreement: pay and conditions that lead the Australian higher education sector

15 August 2013

  • The University's proposal provides you with a package of employment conditions that would lead the higher education sector
  • A 2.9 percent pay increase each year for the next four years provides a competitive salary for both academic and professional staff relative to other universities
  • The package offers existing and enhanced benefits that maintain workplace conditions and lead the higher education sector
  • The proposal would maintain our University's outstanding and long-held commitment to excellence in teaching and research, and invest in our future
  • This offer is fair, affordable and sustainable

Since negotiations began in 2012, we've adapted the University's offer to suit your needs. We want the best conditions for our people, which is why we believe we have negotiated a market-leading, comprehensive package. The University is proud of the conditions settled so far. The unions should be too.

At a time when global economic conditions and government funding of universities are uncertain, the proposed Enterprise Agreement secures pay and conditions for you and your colleagues over the next four years that will lead those of universities across Australia.

The proposed agreement would enable us to support the University's financial sustainability so that we continue to provide teaching and research of the highest quality now and in the future. We should not lose sight of that shared responsibility.

A good package for staff

It is important to look at the proposed package as a whole. It offers you and your colleagues sector-leading salaries, retains existing benefits and introduces new ones that will support your career opportunities and work-life balance.

Key benefits of the proposed Enterprise Agreement


  • A 2.9 percent pay increase positions the University of Sydney as the best-paying university in Australia
  • It represents an excellent offer compared to other industries in the public and many private sectors, especially in the current uncertain political and economic climate

New positions and more security in employment

In addition to existing postgraduate fellowships the University is introducing

  • 80 new scholarly teaching fellow (STF) positions to provide development opportunities for staff currently working as casuals
  • 40 new early-career development fellowships (ECDF) to support academics' future ambitions (these roles also provide scope for academic conversion to ongoing employment)
  • more scope for casual staff to convert to continuing or fixed-term employment and fixed-term staff to continuing employment
  • confirmation period for academic staff (other than STFs and ECDFs) of four years

Development opportunities

  • New annual $2 million fund to support development of our professional staff
  • Exchange and short-term secondment program for professional staff

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment

  • Targets set to 75 academic and 97 professional positions by December 2015

Additional benefits

  • Provisions to support equitable, transparent and reasonable allocation of work for professional staff
  • Maximum severance pay for professional staff increased from 52 to 62 weeks
  • You can once again cash out excess annual leave on request
  • Three concessional days as additional paid leave during annual closedown

Sector-leading sick leave

The University's leave provisions support a healthy work-life balance, including very generous sick leave entitlements.

  • Sick leave entitlement of 50 days per annum, which is far higher than other universities (eg 30 days for UNSW professional staff, and 22 days at full pay and 22 days at half pay for UNSW academic staff; 15 days at UTS and the University of Melbourne.)
  • Scope to take additional partner leave using sick leave credits

Some key points to consider

  • The University's proposal provides a guaranteed 2.9 percent salary increase in an economy where all industries are concerned about maintaining a healthy rate of employment.
  • The University does not have a surplus. In 2012 we had an underlying operating deficit of $46.3 million.
  • The University has been successful in attracting more funding in recent years, for example through philanthropy, but we cannot use all income as we choose. A large proportion of our income is tied to the purpose for which it was provided, for example as directed by funding bodies or donors.
  • Agreeing to the unions' demand of a 4 percent pay rise over four years would, from 1 July 2013, cost the University an extra $118 million over the life of the agreement. To fund this the University would need to find additional sources of income, or cut costs elsewhere.
  • A 4 percent pay rise can only lead to a further strain on resources, thousands more students and overcrowded lecture theatres.
  • Total employee benefits already account for more than half of all the University's operating expenses.
  • A third of our annual income is derived from student fees. If enrolment numbers or student retention rates fall due to industrial action, we will have to cut costs in other areas.
  • Government funding for higher education will continue to fall, whatever the outcome of the September federal election. This is an opportunity to give certainty to staff.