Enterprise bargaining

Bargaining between the University, staff and union (NTEU and CPSU) representatives has been underway since August 2017 with the goal being to agree employment conditions that will allow the University and its academic, teaching and professional staff to succeed and grow.

University leaders are mindful of a range of internal and external factors, including changes to Government funding, that are evolving as bargaining progresses. Discussions are cognisant of the various impacts on staff and the University as a whole and seek to consider how to best shape our agreements for the current and future environment.


Enterprise agreement updates

Enterprise Bargaining 2017 – Notice of Representational Rights and Appointment of Bargaining Representatives

Staff covered by the University’s three enterprise agreements would have recently received two e-mails from Sharon Champness, Director, People and Workforce Strategy. The first on Friday 2 June 2017 regarding the commencement of Enterprise Bargaining 2017 together with the Notice of Representational Rights and the second on Monday 5 June 2017 regarding the opportunity for staff to appoint Bargaining Representatives. This information is also repeated below, including links to the relevant forms, for your convenience.

Shortly the University will commence enterprise bargaining to negotiate a new enterprise agreement for academic, professional and teaching staff of the University.  The University is required to notify all staff in accordance with subsection 174(1A) of the Fair Work Act, 2009, and Fair Work Regulation 2.05. The Notice of Representational Rights can be accessed by the link below.

Schedule 2.1 - Notice of Employee Representational Rights – Fair Work Act 2009, subsection 174 (1A). (PDF, 143KB)

If you wish to appoint a bargaining representative or represent yourself in bargaining, for convenience you may complete the form entitled Notice of an Appointment of a Bargaining Representative 2017 (PDF, 197KB) and send to Ruth Hartmann, Human Resource Services, The Chancellery, or email to Ruth.Hartmann@newcastle.edu.au

If you have any questions relating to the above please email Mark Kelly at mark.kelly@newcastle.edu.au or Ruth Hartmann at ruth.hartmann@newcastle.edu.au

Bargaining is progressing positively and we are getting closer to resolving the finer details in our discussions. Benefits available to us as university staff are among the highest across the regions we work and we want to ensure, through our Enterprise Agreements, that UON continues to be a great place to work, with generous terms and conditions for our staff.

In the coming weeks, we will be discussing a range of issues including workloads, benefits, unsatisfactory performance and misconduct and entitlements for sessional academic staff. Like other universities, we are seeking to update our Agreements to ensure that they reflect best practice and support the smooth operation of the University. In particular we are aiming to communicate the conditions within our Agreements in a manner that is accessible and can be easily understood by all of our staff.

In relation to salaries, we will take into account the financial outlook for the higher education sector and for UON and work to ensure that our Enterprise Agreements support good conditions including job security for staff and the longer term financial sustainability of the University.

Good progress has continued to be made over the last three bargaining meetings since my last update to you. To facilitate more focused discussions we are presently alternating our weekly meetings between matters specific to the Academic Agreement and issues that are generally common to all three Agreements.

The key issues discussed during the three meetings (two academic and one common) have included Academic Workload, Sessional Staff, Environmental Sustainability, Probation, Unsatisfactory Performance/Misconduct, Representation and Consultation.

Our next planned meeting is to review progress over all three Agreements to enable us to focus our efforts on the key outstanding issues in the following weeks.

Staff are encouraged to refer to the frequently asked questions on this page and to submit any questions via the EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au.

At last week’s enterprise bargaining meeting, the bargaining team undertook a stocktake of the progress that's been made to date. We are pleased to report that through good faith bargaining, we have achieved in-principle agreement for approximately 80 percent of clauses.

This week, discussions progressed with a focus on our recently reported financial position. As many of the clauses in our enterprise agreements have financial implications, these need to be considered very closely and in the broader context of our financial performance and funding environment. The University’s financial health is sound, however it is our responsibility to exercise appropriate restraint while we wait to see the impact of caps on Commonwealth funded places. Our aim is to achieve fair and sustainable enterprise agreements.

We are also looking to introduce increased flexibility for individual staff to cash out an amount of accrued annual leave at their request. Of course, we realise that taking regular annual leave is very important to health and well-being, but we also know that life sometimes presents challenges that additional finances can help to alleviate.

In addition, we are close to in principle agreement around Academic Workload and will continue discussions on a proposed new category of employment for Academic staff – Industry and Clinical Educators.

As we progress through the final stages of bargaining, we will be proposing changes to the enterprise agreements that will support early and more meaningful communication about performance and development which, with the support of improvements to our PRD process, we believe will deliver real benefits to staff.

Ensuring UON continues to be a fair and equitable place to work with generous terms and conditions for our staff is our priority. Reaching agreement on the remaining 20 percent will require a concentrated effort from all parties and a commitment to continuing to bargain in good faith.

Bargaining meetings continued last week with a focus on leave entitlements and conditions.

Enterprise Bargaining representatives agreed to the introduction of a new category of personal leave to support staff in their efforts to engage and support the community. Under the new Agreements, staff will be entitled to apply for two personal leave days each year for the purpose of participating in volunteering activities. This initiative was proposed by the University based on requests from a number of staff.

There was also discussion around carer’s leave, with the University proposing to expand access to accrued sick leave to allow a staff member take time off to help them deal with caring responsibilities.

As per the previous update, the University is negotiating to provide increased flexibility that will allow staff to ‘cash out’ a portion of annual leave.

Please send feedback and questions to EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au


Frequently asked questions

Q. What is an Enterprise Agreement?

An enterprise agreement (EA) is a legally binding agreement made between an employer and its employees that covers the terms and conditions of employment including pay and benefits. At UON there are three separate agreements – for academic staff, teaching staff and professional staff. All staff employed within the scope of these agreements are covered by the conditions of the relevant EA.

Q. Where can I find the UON Enterprise Agreements?

You can read the current agreements here.

Q. What is enterprise bargaining?

Enterprise bargaining is the process of discussions between the employer (UON) and employee representatives to determine the terms of the agreement. The process is typically a series of meetings between the bargaining representatives to arrive at the terms of the new agreement, followed by a vote.

Q. When does bargaining take place?

Enterprise bargaining normally commences prior to the expiry of the existing enterprise agreement. Our current agreements expire on 30 June 2017.

Q. What happens if a new agreement is not approved before 30 June?

Although enterprise agreements have a “nominal expiry date” which in the case of UON is 30 June 2017, they continue in force until they are replaced.

Q. What is the bargaining process?

The enterprise bargaining process is regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009. There are typically three steps to the process:

1.Bargain

Enterprise bargaining has been initiated by the employer (UON).

Throughout the bargaining process, bargaining representatives of UON and employees and union representatives meet to discuss and agree the terms and conditions of employment for the new agreement.

Each employee’s interests can be represented in a number of ways:

  • by themselves as a bargaining representative
  • by a colleague representing on their behalf, and/or
  • by union representatives.

Any member of the workforce can nominate to be a bargaining representative.

2. Vote

Once the agreement has been negotiated between UON and employee representatives, it is put to a vote. Notification of the voting process is provided to all staff in advance. All staff who will be covered by the agreement are invited to vote, however voting is not compulsory.

The “access period” commences seven days prior to the vote. During this time, staff will have access to the agreements and materials provided to support staff in understanding the terms of the proposed agreement.

The enterprise agreement is approved if the majority of valid votes received are in favour of the agreement. If there is not a majority “yes” vote, bargaining will recommence.

3. Approve

Once the agreement has been approved at a vote, it must be lodged with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) within 14 days.

The FWC runs a “Better Off Overall Test” to ensure that employees are better off overall than under the relevant Modern Award, as well as ensuring the new Agreement complies with all Fair Work Act requirements.

The new agreement then comes into effect seven days after approval by the Fair Work Commission.

Q. Who represents me in the negotiations?

An important part of the enterprise bargaining process is your right to represent yourself or to nominate a representative who agrees to participate in discussions on your behalf.

All union members will be automatically represented in the bargaining process by their union representative. To find out more about being a bargaining representative, contact EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au

Q. Do I have to vote for the new Enterprise Agreement?

Every current employee covered by the proposed new agreements at UON who is eligible to vote, is invited to participate in the ballot once discussions are completed. While not compulsory, voting is encouraged to ensure a range of voices from across UON are heard.

Q. When does the ballot take place?

Once the bargaining process is complete, voting information will be sent to all staff covered by the agreements. Prior to the vote, an access period of seven days allows staff time to review the agreement and any other materials that will help explain the agreement and support you in the voting process.

Q. Is general information available on enterprise bargaining?

The Fair Work Commission provides general information about enterprise bargaining and enterprise agreements.

Q. Can I become a bargaining representative?

Any staff member covered by the agreement can be involved in bargaining, representing either themselves or other employees.

To find out more about what is involved, please email EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au.

Q. What is Good Faith Bargaining

It is a requirement of the Fair Work Act that everyone who participates in the bargaining process does so in good faith. This means that UON and employee representatives must:

  • attend, and participate in meetings at reasonable times
  • disclose relevant information (other than confidential or commercially sensitive information) in a timely manner
  • respond to proposals made in a timely manner
  • give genuine consideration to proposals and give reasons for responses to the proposals
  • refrain from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining
  • recognise and bargain with the other bargaining representatives for the agreement.

Good faith bargaining does not require a bargaining representative to:

  • make concessions during bargaining for the agreement
  • reach agreement on the terms that are to be included in the agreement.

Q. How will I stay up-to-date?

Regular updates will be shared on the UON website as staff news items. These updates will also be published in In the Loop. You can also email enquiries to EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au.

Q. Can I provide feedback?

At any time during the bargaining process, feedback can be provided through your bargaining representative or via email to EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au.

Q. Who can answer my questions?

Please direct any questions relating to the bargaining process to your Bargaining Representative, Business Leader or HR Business Partner. Alternatively, you can email EB-feedback@newcastle.edu.au.