MURDOCH University staff have staged a half-day work stop and are planning further industrial action after the Fair Work Commission allowed the university to terminate its existing enterprise agreement (EA) late last month.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members walked off campus around 1.30pm this afternoon in protest over the move, which will force Murdoch University’s more than 3000 staff on to the far less generous modern award.
The university has vowed to keep in place current staff wages and other benefits for six months but the clock is now ticking and president of the Murdoch branch of the NTEU Jo-Ann Whalley said union members were prepared to fight to protect their work conditions.
“We held a meeting today at lunch time and the feeling in the room was one of solidarity, anger and very grim determination,” she said.
“You could sense that staff feel betrayed by management and the vote to hold a work-stop was close to unanimous.”
Ms Whalley said NTEU members also passed a motion endorsing the creation of a campaign committee to plan further industrial action, which will begin with a half-day strike as part of a national day of action on September 26.
“We are planning a national day of protest and have already had multiple messages of support from around the country,” she said.
“There will be activities held on campuses all over Australia and we are encouraging NTEU members at other universities that are currently involved in EA negotiations to join us in striking on the day.”
Without an EA in place, Murdoch University management will be free to reduce wages by 25 to 39 per cent, cut redundancy entitlements, remove academic workload regulation and eliminate employer provided paid parental leave.
Ms Whalley said that although the university had promised to protect academic freedom, agreeing on acceptable wage increases remained a serious stumbling block.
“Back in May they presented us with a very minimal pay offer that didn’t even keep pace with inflation over the term of the agreement,” she said.
“They’ve now said they are going to revise that but we are yet to see any detail.”
“We’re not going to back down on what we believe is fair and reasonable; this is only the beginning, we will see this through to the end and we will win.”
In a statement Murdoch University said it believed “with genuine commitment from both parties” a new EA would be in place within six months.
“We understand a very small number of our staff chose to take industrial action yesterday and we continue to respect and support their choice in this matter, just as we do those who chose to continue to work on behalf of the university,” Murdoch University said.
“At this stage, we believe that all parties should focus their energy and time on securing an agreement that provides certainty for our staff and is mutually beneficial by providing a sustainable future.
“Any distractions from this focus are not helpful for our students nor the majority of our staff who continue to work hard on achieving the best possible future for the university.”