The ACT Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has been experiencing rocky negotiations with the ANU in response to the perceived insufficient pay increase was outlined during the latest round of budget cuts and pay negotiations in July by the Vice-Chancellor. Negotiations were suspended for a period of 24 hours last week. Although they have now resumed, the union claims that the negotiations have reached no reasonable compromise and they will be going ahead with a mass meeting of union members on August 20 to consider any progress and the possibility of resorting to industrial action.

The Divisional Secretary of the ACT Division, Stephen Darwin, described the pay offer of 2% a year in “administrative” increases with a further 2% in 2015 as being “an insult to the professionalism and hard work of ANU staff,” and as being particularly egregious since the ANU is one of the wealthiest Australian universities. The treatment of this pay claim, coming as it does alongside deep budget cuts within the College of Arts and Social Sciences, seems to justify Mr Darwin’s claim that they demonstrate the Vice-Chancellor’s “managerialist” desire to maintain a unnecessarily large underlying budget surplus, reported to be over $1 billion in 2012.

Although they had been previously announced by the Vice-Chancellor, Mr Darwin claimed they were used to soften the blow of the job cuts of over 200 administrative staff and further tough efficiency measures to be implemented throughout the University.

He further claims it is effectively only a 1.5% pay rise over the life of this bargaining agreement, since 15 months have already elapsed since the expiry of the previous agreement. This is despite, he notes, the Consumer Price Index running at 2.4% and staff salaries at the ANU already being lower than many other Group of 8 universities as well as the University of Canberra.

When Woroni sought comment, the university asserted that the pay offer was 2% per annum over the next three years, further saying they were “committed to the enterprise bargaining process” and “dedicated to open and collegiate discussions with all participants.” The claim was that in a difficult financial period, it was a reasonable salary outcome which would provide job security.