Early on Thursday morning, ANU staff members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) held a demonstration calling for an immediate 5 percent pay rise for all ANU staff. This action was a response to the upcoming renewal of the ANU staff enterprise agreement, which dictates the pay conditions of all staff at the university.
The NTEU served bargaining claims requesting a 5 percent pay rise to management in June, which has not been actioned. The NTEU wants the ANU to come to the table and form an enterprise agreement.
In a statement to Woroni, the NTEU confirmed that this action was not a strike, but rather an attempt by NTEU members to prompt “ANU management to initiate the bargaining process.”
Lachlan Clohesy, General Secretary of the ACT NTEU, argued that the second reason behind the demonstration was that ANU “asked staff to defer their pay rises…with the promise of saving jobs and then subsequently announced 467 redundancies.” He said they’re also “conscious of a new $232.4 million surplus for 2021.”
The ANU has the ability to enact a 5 percent administrative pay rise, without needing an enterprise agreement.
A College of the Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) staff member told Woroni that a 5 percent pay rise is the “bare minimum if it occurs.” Regarding last year’s redundancies and better than expected budget, the staff member commented that “It’s tempting to believe that the people at the top know what they’re doing, but that’s hard evidence to ignore.”
The demonstration took place at 7:30am, with the aim of catching people as they head in to work.
Students can support staff in this demonstration by “follow[ing] the campaign…support[ing] their lecturers and tutors, and help[ing] spread the word.” The NTEU noted the value of students as allies to staff, as “staff working conditions are student learning conditions.”
The NTEU also voiced support for the recent ANUSA action against course cuts, with ANUSA President Christian Flynn asserting that “…the continued erosion of worker rights at universities will only further negatively impact students in the future.”
This demonstration is one of many occurring around Australia. As COVID-19 has decimated the tertiary sector, unionised staff members are demanding pay rises and better working conditions across the country. Last week, NTEU members at the University of Sydney picketed for a pay increase, and staff at the University of Canberra have applied for the right to strike. RMIT in Melbourne made headlines earlier this year for refusing to bargain with workers.
Under Australia’s industrial disputes laws, there must be a period of good faith bargaining before workers begin industrial action, including a strike.
An ANU Spokesperson confirmed that “ANU has met with the NTEU for initial discussions” and that “The University welcomes the opportunity to work with the NTEU.”
The negotiation process is likely to take a few months, and, assuming it doesn’t break down, there will probably be a new enterprise agreement in Semester 1 next year.
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