The University of Newcastle, Australia

Enterprise bargaining update

Monday, 12 May 2014

Get the latest update from the Enterprise Bargaining Team about our new staff enterprise agreements.

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Dear Colleagues,

On the application of the NTEU, a Protected Action Ballot Order (PDF, 265KB) was made by the FairWork Commission on 24th March 2014.

Important notice to employees - Protected Action Ballot (PDF, 29.9KB).

The University Enterprise Bargaining Team

Dear Colleagues,

As Enterprise Bargaining discussions continue and move closer to resolution, the University remains committed to delivering a timely outcome which benefits our valued staff and which ensures a sustainable future for all of us.

There is currently much discussion in the media and around the sector regarding the changes that the Federal Government is considering in relation to higher education in Australia. These include a number of ways in which the government may seek to reduce its share of funding to the sector in the Federal Budget, as well as avenues proposed in the review of the Demand Driven System that increase competition by allowing other providers to compete with universities, or by allowing universities to set their own fees and hence compete financially with one another.

In addition to the Efficiency Dividend already in place for 2015, it currently appears likely that universities will face additional financial challenges over the next few years and that the need for flexibility and competitiveness within the sector will become even greater.  Whilst the University of Newcastle is in a solid financial position, it will be necessary to respond to the changing environment to ensure the long-term viability of the institution and to maximise job security for staff.

It is within this context that enterprise bargaining is occurring. It has been necessary to remind ourselves in the bargaining process that the University has a defined envelope available for salary increases and for any changes in benefits to staff. This was discussed in detail with staff during the budget presentations at the end of last year. The situation has not changed since then when we showed that with reduced government funding and relatively stable student numbers, budgets at UON will be tight in 2014 and 2015. The University has a preference for maintaining staff numbers wherever possible and hence there is not an unlimited salary budget available. In saying this, the University recognises the importance of rewarding staff and is prepared to offer staff salary increases in line with the sector, with an increase of up to 3% per annum being considered.

In addition to a competitive salary increase consistent with the environment in which the sector is operating, the University has also indicated that it is prepared to consider the following changes to the Agreements for the benefit of staff:

  • An increase to the transparency of development planning for professional staff within each organisational unit to better align organisational needs with individual development aspirations and the PRD process. This will complement the University's already strong commitment to staff development and its significant investment in development programmes, conferences and on-the-job training for staff.
  • Consideration of the HEW level structure in response to a joint working party report in 2013 to remove potential inequities at lower levels.
  • Removal of automatic "deeming" of annual leave for academic staff where staff demonstrate a commitment to planning and booking leave.
  • Greater clarity around the parameters influencing academic workload models.
  • PhD transition support for a fixed number of ongoing academic staff without a PhD across the period of the Agreement.
  • Access to professional development and resources for casual staff members and a commitment to engage with academic staff and the NTEU in the development of the UON Academy to better meet the needs of casual academic staff.  
  • Clear definitions of roles for teachers and a review of appropriate compensation for roles.

In return, the University is seeking the following changes to align the Agreements to the needs of the future environment:

  • Increasing the flexibility in fixed term and contingent employment to accommodate the uncertainty of University funding and to maximise opportunities for employment in the current environment
  • Facilitating organisational change sensitively where only one staff member is affected
  • Providing increased options in redeployment support to focus resources and assistance on external job opportunities where this is the most likely option for a staff member
  • Ensuring that performance management clauses accommodate the new Performance Review and Development (PRD) process, and
  • Ensuring that Misconduct and Unsatisfactory Performance processes are both fair and appropriately efficient in those cases where they need to be implemented.

The University has actively sought to reach agreement over the past few months and has minimised the scope of its proposed changes as part of bargaining in an attempt to reach agreement. Bargaining discussions have however progressed at a slower pace than is desirable. During the last week of bargaining, eleven NTEU clauses were tabled again for discussion. The University is currently seeking clarity from the NTEU regarding the relative priority of the large number of their claims that are still "on the table". This clarity is necessary in order to move the negotiations to conclusion. During the last week of bargaining, the CPSU provided a summary document highlighting the current status of discussions in relation to professional staff and what they believe to be the small number of outstanding issues remaining to be resolved. This has been a helpful approach and we are hopeful of a similar level of clarity from the NTEU in order to conclude bargaining and present new agreements to staff for their endorsement.

The University recognises that staff are supportive of the University remaining sustainable and competitive over the long term, and that most staff do not have concerns about the areas in which the University is seeking small changes to the Agreements to ensure that we can respond to the future environment. The University also recognises that not all staff are interested in all the claims being advanced by the unions. The University thanks staff for their patience as we seek to quickly reach agreement with the bargaining team. We encourage all staff to provide feedback on issues of interest and areas of personal priority in order to give us some additional input into finalising the Agreements

If you would like to provide your feedback, please email

Best wishes,

Professor Andrew Parfitt

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Professor John Germov

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education and Arts)

Sharon Champness

Director, People and Workforce Strategy

On behalf of the University Enterprise Bargaining Team

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