MURDOCH University is seeking to tear up its enterprise agreement with academic and general staff, a move that could result in wage cuts of up to 39 per cent.
The university has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the agreement, which would force staff on to the far less generous modern award.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) WA secretary Gabe Gooding blasted the move, which she said showed a complete lack of respect for dedicated employees.
“This application is expressly about removing hard-won conditions that management don’t want,” she said.
“The NTEU has been negotiating a new enterprise agreement since April but the university has taken an aggressive stance, demanding wide and deep cuts to staff working conditions while pursuing costly and time-consuming legal avenues.
“Consequently union members took protected industrial action last Wednesday.
“Management immediately filed for conciliation listed for this coming Friday but before this could occur, sought to terminate the current enterprise agreement.”
In a statement released Tuesday, a spokesman for Murdoch University said the university had met with the NTEU 25 times in the past seven months but had made little progress on a new enterprise agreement.
The spokesman said once Murdoch University was advised of union members’ intent to take protected industrial action on December 1, it made an application to the Fair Work Commission for an urgent conference on December 2 but the NTEU was unavailable to attend.
Murdoch University Provost Andrew Taggart said that the termination application would allow the parties to move past the current impasse and focus on the future of the university.
“We are committed to making a new agreement, which is seen as a fundamental element in moving to a successful and sustainable university,” he said.
Professor Taggart said for the university to be successful in the evolving higher education environment it required employment conditions that provide for flexibility and agility to take advantage of new opportunities.
In an email to NTEU members, general secretary Grahame McCulloch described the move as an “unprecedented act never seen before in the university sector.”
He claimed that if successful, it would allow Murdoch University management to reduce wages by 25 to 39 per cent, cut redundancy entitlements, remove academic workload regulation, end rights to academic and intellectual freedom and eliminate employer-provided paid parental leave.
Murdoch University has confirmed it will make undertakings to its staff to maintain take-home pay.