Enterprise bargaining: the facts

21 August 2013

Our university should be a place of rigorous and robust debate. That's part of who we are. But that debate should be based on fact.

It was therefore disappointing that at yesterday's industrial action, picketers distributed NTEU flyers that were dated March and May 2013. None of the nine statements on the May flyer provides an accurate reflection of the University's proposed Enterprise Agreement. The March flyer is even more out of date.

For example, under the proposed agreement on the table, there will be no reduction in sick leave entitlements, and there will be new benefits such as domestic violence leave and more flexibility to use sick leave credits for carers leave and partner parental leave.

Our proposal also responds to concerns we all share about the long-term consequences of casualisation on the academic sector, raised in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. The Herald today published a letter from the Provost in which he outlined how the University's proposal would further reduce casualisation by creating 80 new Scholarly Teaching Fellowships and 40 new Early Career Development Fellowships, and provide more scope for casual staff to convert to more permanent roles.

As Professor Garton explains, the proportion of casual academics employed at our University has actually fallen from 24.7 percent to 19.9 percent since 2001, well below the 40 percent figure often quoted by the NTEU. Other universities may be increasing casualisation, but not Sydney.

These are some of the many areas where the University has responded to staff feedback during these negotiations. Our current proposal offers a package of pay and employment conditions that would lead the higher education sector.

Our offer to increase staff salaries by 2.9 percent under the next enterprise agreement will stand regardless of whether agreement is reached by 30 August, but the offer to backdate the salary increase to July 2013 cannot be guaranteed after 30 August. Uncertainty regarding higher education funding after the federal election means it would be financially irresponsible for the University to commit to backdating any salary rise in such a challenging external climate.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Spence