UNSW staff begin negotiations over new enterprise agreements

By Caitlin Bailey

In early March, UNSW management commenced negotiations with UNSW staff unions on a new enterprise agreement that will determine salaries and employment conditions for the next four years. 

UNSW management and UNSW staff unions agreed there would be separate negotiations for the Academic Staff Enterprise Agreement and the Professional Staff Enterprise Agreement and that meetings would be held every two weeks from March 30 until new Agreements are completed. 

The negotiations follow a turbulent time for the university given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UNSW has cut almost 500 jobs, restructured six faculties by combining three faculties into one, and required staff members to increase their working hours to meet the demands of delivering courses online.  

Chief Human Resources Officer Deena Amorelli said, “The negotiations provide us with the opportunity to ensure our agreements are responsive to the changing nature of our current environment, support future teaching and research activities, and ensure UNSW’s good financial health.”  

UNSW has proposed several changes to the existing Agreements, including modifying and simplifying the language in the Agreements, creating sustainable and equitable salary increases and improving flexibility for staff.  

For staff members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), job security and workloads are key issues for negotiations.  

“University staff have suffered multiple hits during COVID – job losses, rising workloads, and wages that aren’t keeping pace with inflation,” Sarah Gregson, NTEU UNSW Vice President told Tharunka.  

“We are seeking improved conditions and better protections in a range of areas to address some of those concerns,” she said. 

The University has also been accused of underpaying casual staff up to $36 million by an independent auditor.  

While Gregson said that the University’s audit resulted in back payments to many casual academics, she added the NTEU would be seeking stronger protections in the new Enterprise Agreements “to make sure that casuals are paid for every hour they work in the future.”  

CPSU NSW Delegate, Alister Wareing, said that the CPSU would oppose any proposals that threaten to undermine professional staff entitlements outlined in the existing Professional Staff Enterprise Agreement.  

Wareing added that the CPSU may look to strengthen professional staff entitlements relating to the redeployment of staff to alternative positions within the University. 

On the University’s proposal to modify and simplify the language of the Agreement, Wareing said that while it may “seem a laudable goal…obviously it holds the potential for important details to [be] lost in the process…just by accident…” adding that “the CPSU NSW is not convinced that the Agreement is all that difficult to read and apply as it is.”   

The new Enterprise Agreements will come into effect once negotiations have concluded and the new Agreements are voted on and approved by the Fair Work Commission. In the interim, the existing Agreements will continue to apply.