UNIVERSITY of Newcastle staff have been left waiting on management to confirm whether it intends to uphold its direction for all employees to take nine days annual leave over Christmas.
As reported on Wednesday, the National Tertiary Education Union - which represents professional staff, academic staff and teachers - made an application for the Fair Work Commission to deal with a dispute between it and UON, which directed all staff to take five days leave at Easter.
UON agreed at the outset of arbitration its direction was not permitted for academic staff at all, or for professional and teaching staff who were forced into negative leave balances. UON agreed to recredit or repay these staff. The NTEU said this should happen immediately.
The scope of the dispute was then narrowed to the direction applying to professional and teaching staff. The FWC ruled these staff should also be recredited or repaid.
NTEU Newcastle branch president Dan Conway said the FWC decision had been met with a "hugely positive" response from both members and non members.
"Part of management's argument during the dispute has been that they received no negative feedback over the direction," he said.
"We have always maintained this was inconsistent with the feedback we have received and this has been proven again following the decision."
Mr Conway said the NTEU has asked UON if it will comply with the FWC decision and if it will uphold its direction to all staff to take leave over Christmas. He said UON said it was considering its options and seeking advice on the decision and its implications.
"There is a considerable level of anxiety among staff over the Christmas direction," he said.
"Some staff are happy to take leave at this time, but in order to do so they need to be recredited the leave taken from them at Easter.
"Although we respect management's right to appeal [the FWC decision], we feel a better approach, if the direction was genuinely around staff wellbeing... [is] to accept the ruling and move on."
The Newcastle Herald asked UON if it will proceed with the direction; if and when it will recredit leave or repay professional staff and teachers; and if it will appeal the decision.
"The University is seeking advice on the implications of the Fair Work Commission's decision," Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky said in a statement.
"I hope to be able to communicate outcomes and next steps to staff as soon as this advice is received."
Mr Conway said it was in "the best interest of staff morale and wellbeing" to not prolong the dispute and that the NTEU would fight any appeal.
"We believe our argument is on solid ground," he said.
"It simply affirms a long line of legal precedent that annual leave is for the rest and recuperation of staff at a time of their choosing.
"We will therefore pursue this matter as necessary to ensure the decision handed down by the FWC is complied with."
IN THE NEWS: