Australian universities shut by strike action
Australian universities closed today as staff from seven higher education unions went on strike in protest at a
government proposal to deny universities $404 million in funding unless they adopt a series of hard-line industrial
reforms. They include breaking-down collective bargaining and forcing staff onto individual employment contracts, called
Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).
The proposal has already resulted in Sydney University withdrawing an agreement to increase salaries by 20% over the
next three years, and which was due to be ratified last month.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) says the government's industrial requirements would lift the limits on
casual employment in the university sector and leave staff without many of the protections, such as maternity leave,
overtime and penalty rates, provided in union negotiated agreements.
NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCulloch said that collective bargaining had been particularly successful in maintaining
strong salaries and conditions of employment for staff over the last decade and the government’s actions were designed
to try and break this. “The government's requirements do not deal with the real workplace issues facing academic and
general staff,” he said. “Instead, they will make the situation worse and erode the quality of education provided by our
public university system”.
Mr McCulloch said the decision to take national strike action would demonstrate to the government and university
management the determination of academic and general staff to resist Commonwealth meddling and to protect the
independence of our public university system.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that the fight the unions were entering into was vitally important for the
future of the Australian university system and for industrial relations in general. “Under the Employment Contracts Act
we experienced conditions similar to those the Australian Federal Government is attempting to impose on NTEU members,
and they are aimed only at undermining union strength, hindering fair bargaining, and denying the ability of democratic
unions to represent their members in their workplace. In all workplaces this is appalling, in universities it is
unworkable,” he said
Higher education unions in the United Kingdom will meet today to consider their response to a failure to agree on new
salary rates there. Unions rejected an offer from the university employers, made in July, which would have resulted in
salary increases of up to 7.6% over 2 years. The unions have argued salaries are 28% behind comparable rates and have
claimed an increase of 14% over the next three years in addition to further increases linked to average UK salary
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. TEC budget blow-out
2. Massey students remanded
3. Bargaining protocol agreed
4. VC questions PBRF
5. Big response to tertiary innovation and e-learning funds
6. Do good looks equal good evaluations?
7. GATS demand withdrawn
TEC budget blow-out
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will exceed its budget by $11 million in its first full year of operation, from
1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004. Figures obtained by Education Review under the Official Information Act show an operating
budget of $43 million, almost 35% ahead of the estimated budget of $32 million. The figures include $18.38 million for
staff, $5.58 million for contractors and $2.73 million for the implementation of the PBRF.
The TEC was formally created on 1 January this year and took over Skill New Zealand and part of the Ministry of
Education, as well as undertaking a number of new roles specifically created for the commission.
TEC chair Andrew West has told Education Review that $9.2 million of the estimated budget would be for new roles.
It is understood that a third of the increased funding was for assessment work associated with the introduction of the
PBRF, a further third for the administration of new initiatives and the remainder because of higher than anticipated
costs associated with the establishment of the commission.
Massey students remanded
Twelve students arrested in last week’s protest against fee increases at Massey University have been remanded without
plea following an appearance in the Palmerston North District Court. The student are facing trespass and related charges
following the occupation of a part of Registry in which it is alleged they broke down two doors and did thousands of
dollars worth of damage.
Police raided the offices of the Massey extra-mural students’ association yesterday searching for evidence related to
Bargaining protocol agreed
An agreement on a bargaining protocol has been reached between university unions and employers after mediation in
Christchurch this week. A number of dates have also been confirmed for bargaining.
The bargaining protocol, which governs arrangements and conduct between the parties during the bargaining process, was
finalised on Tuesday after earlier discussions had reached an impasse over representation and the use of information
provided during bargaining.
Some university’s had attempted to limit the participation of staff representatives by restricting the numbers of staff
to be released on pay for negotiations and by placing limits on which of the staff representatives would have access to
confidential information during bargaining. Disagreement also remained about the confidentiality and use of commercially
Following mediation, the universities have agreed to release staff representatives on pay for the negotiations, but will
review progress after 15 days. They have also withdrawn the limitation on those staff representatives to whom
commercially sensitive information would be made available. The unions have agreed to provisions which are intended to
establish parameters by which any analysis of confidential information provided by employers can be subsequently
reported to union members.
The unions’ advocate, AUS Industrial Officer Jeff Rowe, said that although it had required four days and mediation to
achieve a protocol, it would provide a good basis on which the negotiations would proceed.
The negotiations will commence on 6 and 7 November in Wellington with a further six days scheduled before the end if the
year. They are 26 and 27 November (in Christchurch), 3 and 4 December (in Wellington) and 15 and 16 December (in
VC questions PBRF
The Australasian Research Management Society conference in Auckland has been told that the performance based research
fund (PBRF) was demoralising staff and eating up all extra money in bureaucracy.
Victoria University vice-chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon told the conference that the PBRF, which grades staff
from A to C on the basis of their research publications and evidence of "peer esteem,” will consign a good many
researchers to the 'research-inactive' grade, not because they are poor performers but because they are new to the
“What we have done is take $5 to $6 million of research top-ups from the polytechnics and spend them on overheads. My
view is that, in a situation in which we are strongly competitive internationally, we shouldn't waste anything. We
should spend every dollar that we can on frontline researchers,” he said.
Big response to tertiary innovation and e-learning funds
Two hundred and seventy applications have been received for a share of the $34 million available for the Innovation and
Development Fund (IDF) and the e-Learning Collaborative Development Fund (eCDF). These funds have been established to
improve the “connectedness” of tertiary education organisations with the needs of business and the community, and to
foster the use of technology-based learning tools. Both capital and operational funding is available for projects to be
undertaken during the period 1 January 2004 to 30 June 2005.
Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey said “the number of applications received for this new
funding, and the calibre of the individual applications, demonstrates that tertiary education organisations have been
carefully thinking about their future role in the new system and how they could make use of new learning technologies”.
The Tertiary Education Commission will assess the applications and allocate the funding. Applicants will be notified by
22 December 2003 as to the result of their application.
Do good looks equal good evaluations?
Researchers at the University of Texas have found that attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely
colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching. The findings, they say, raise serious questions
about the use of student evaluations as a valid measure of teaching quality.
Students were asked to look at photographs of 94 professors and rate their beauty. Then they compared those ratings to
the average student evaluation scores for the courses taught by those professors. They found that the professors who had
been rated among the most beautiful scored substantially higher than those rated least beautiful.
The research also found that both female and minority professors earned lower overall ratings for their teaching than
their white, male peers.
GATS demand withdrawn
A spokesman from the Norwegian foreign ministry said last week that Norway would withdraw its GATS demands on South
Africa on higher and adult education.
The event is followed by a strong statement by the South African Minister of Education, Kadar Asmal, at a conference in
Norway, reported in Tertiary Update last week.
Norway has informed other developing countries that they will withdraw demands on the trade liberalisation of education
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