University of Newcastle academics walked off the job for half a shift on Wednesday following an impasse with university management over pay and conditions.
National Tertiary Education Newcastle branch president Tom Griffiths said members were angry at the university’s approach to the bargaining process and its attempt to downgrade established and comprehensive provisions in the existing agreement.
“The NTEU does not undertake strike action lightly, but is doing so to support its efforts to genuinely negotiate fair enterprise agreements for all staff, with no diminution of existing conditions of work, and with some measures to transition more staff into more secure employment,” Associate Professor Griffith said a rally attended by about 150 staff and students.
Dr Deborah Hartman, who works in the field of family studies, estimated her lack of job security had cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars in superannuation over the 20 years she had worked at the university.
“Every year for those 20 years I have been on a contingency or fixed-term contract,” Dr Hartman said.
“I’m a 66-year-old woman and I am not looking at a good retirement. I have foregone 17.5 per cent super for more than 20 years. With compounding super that is hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that I have given up because this university exploits its staff.”
University management tabled an offer of four wage increases of 1.9 per cent per annum through to 2021 last week.
The first salary increase would be paid in the first pay cycle following a successful vote for each agreement. Subsequent salary increases would be paid on each anniversary thereafter. The university said the offer represented an aggregate increase of 7.8 per cent over the life of the agreement.
“While the university continues to operate in a challenging environment, today's offer will ensure that salaries for our staff remain both nationally competitive and among the best in our region,” University of Newcastle director, people and workforce strategy Tina Crawford wrote in an email to staff.
“The salary offer has been made in full view of the broader bargaining discussions and we are confident that combined with the full suite of benefits, both existing and new, the proposed agreements will ensure that UON remains a great place to work.”
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