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Invest in Australia’s future

Invest in our universities


Contents Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 8

Preparing for collective bargaining

Division Councillor Profile

‘I wanted to have a voice and to know what was going on.’

Online, overworked and... organised

Page 10 Library delegates’ profiles Page 12 A new branch of research Page 14 NTEU Delegate and Activist Conference 2011 Page 15 Organising for success

Page 16 Workloads: it’s time for action Page 18 Defend our TAFEs Page 20 Contact the NTEU

Address: Level 1, 120 Clarendon St, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205

Phone: 03 9254 1930 Email: Web: Secretary: Colin Long Assistant Secretary: Christine Holmes President: Virginia Mansel Lees Vice-President (Academic Staff): Mark Schier Vice-President (General Staff): Brian Long Nexus is designed by Atosha McCaw. Feedback and suggestions are welcome:

elcome to the second edition of Nexus for 2011. It’s been a busy year for the NTEU and this edition of Nexus gives a hint of some of the work that has been going on to build a strong, effective union. Readers will notice the emphasis on delegates, who are the key to our future. In many ways we see Nexus as a celebration of the activists and delegates who go beyond their normal work to advance the work rights of their colleagues and to promote the NTEU’s quality education agenda. This edition of Nexus also highlights the diversity of the NTEU’s membership, which includes university staff, PACCT staff in TAFE, workers in adult and community education and staff in research institutes. Membership growth in the last twelve months has put us in a good position for the next round of collective bargaining in 2012. While there are many pressures on the sector, including more funding cuts, we hope that this round will not be as drawn out as the last. But the key determinant of the time taken and our success will be members’ willingness to demonstrate collective support for the union’s bargaining position. Seen in this light, bargaining will be a great opportunity for us to build on the work done by staff, branch committee members, delegates, activists and members to create an effective, powerful, organising union. It is to be hoped that all members are able to get some well-earned rest over the Christmas period, in preparation for what promises to be a big year in 2012. The Victorian Division looks forward to continuing to support all our members in their individual careers and their collective endeavours, to build a strong union and an excellent tertiary education system.

Colin Long, Secretary, NTEU Victorian Division



‘While the last round of bargaining was particularly difficult as we tried to repair the damage inflicted by the Howard years and WorkChoices, we hope to have a less drawn-out struggle this time.’

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he NTEU’s membership is growing, thanks to the efforts of our staff, delegates and members, and, in particular, our growth team. Membership growth is vital to building our strength in preparation for a new round of collective bargaining next year. While the last round of bargaining – which seems like we only just finished – was particularly difficult as we tried to repair the damage inflicted by the Howard years and WorkChoices, we hope to have a less drawn-out struggle this time. This will largely depend on ensuring that our claims are manageable and well supported by members, and on the level of our organisation, industrial strength and willingness to take action in support of our claims. Nevertheless, there are many issues that will take some effort to negotiate. These are already causing members considerable concern. Indeed, these are the perennial issues of the contemporary tertiary education sector. They are also the issues around which we need to start campaigning now, if we NEXUS SUMMER 2011

haven’t already, in order to achieve a groundswell of activism. (Note that these issues are focused on universities only because TAFEs are currently in bargaining, as is reported on page 18 of this issue of Nexus.)

Workloads – academic and general

Workloads continue to be a major source of discontent, conflict and stress for staff. The long-term decline in public funding for universities despite the enormous increase in student numbers has meant work intensification for most staff, whether academic or general/professional. Adding to the pressure are increasing administrative and compliance burdens, additional teaching periods, with shorter times between them, and complex, often punitive, attempts to measure research performance.

Teaching and research

In the wake of the ERA exercise, many universities sought to implement new or refined definitions of research activity. Too often these

have been based on the now-defunct ERA journal rankings, or apparently designed to get rid of certain staff. All NTEU branches will need to be vigilant about definitions of research activity and the protection of the right to conduct research in the next round of bargaining. Related to this is a real need for the union to come to grips with the reality of teaching-only or teaching-focused positions. For years we have defended the teaching-research nexus, ignoring the fact that a large amount of teaching is currently performed by non-research active staff in the form of casuals. We need to consider if we would be better off trying to create some real contracts or ongoing jobs that are teaching-focused and reduce the need for casuals. Such jobs could be at the entry level, with good career paths and the opportunity to move into research-teaching jobs. Importantly, there would have to be an agreement with managements that the level of casualisation would be reduced in return for the recognition and creation of such teaching-focused jobs. I welcome a discussion around these ideas.

Casuals Around 50% of teaching is now performed by casual/sessional staff. This is a direct result of the decline in public funding, the increase in student numbers, and the imposition of market mechanisms on the higher education sector. Ensuring better terms and conditions for casuals, and better career paths and more secure jobs needs to be a continuing focus of the union.

Academic and general/ professional staff classifications

There is already a considerable push from some universities to rethink the classification structures for academic and general staff. Broadbanding for general staff is being pushed by some university managements, for instance. There are also very good reasons to think how the academic classification structure might be altered to facilitate better career progression. The NTEU has had general staff and academic staff working parties considering these issues for some time, and both have recently produced reports that canvass many of these issues (for further information, please contact the Victorian Division). Improving the career structures for both academic and general staff, and recognising the changing nature of university work can be part of a positive NTEU agenda for the next round of bargaining.

Improving funding

All of these issues need to be seen against the backdrop of continuing major change in the sector – which is only likely to be exacerbated after the removal of caps on student numbers next year – and persistent underfunding by the Commonwealth Government. That’s why the NTEU’s national campaign for improved funding is so important. Improving the terms and conditions of employment of staff and advocating for quality public education constitute the primary raison d’être of the NTEU. Essential to our success in both regards is a well-funded higher education sector. Australia is certainly rich enough to devote considerably more resources to education and research; the question is whether our political leaders are smart enough to do so. Make sure you check out the NTEU’s campaign for improved funding, at www.investinuniversities.

Welcome to the new Division Assistant Secretary

Finally, I would like to welcome the new Victorian Division Assistant Secretary, Christine Holmes. Christine, a general/professional staff member from the University of Melbourne, won the recent election very comfortably and will be a valuable addition to the leadership team.

Division Councillor Profile

Jeremy Smith

President, University of Ballarat Branch

‘I got involved in the union at UB early on in my employment in 1996 out of commitment to my co-workers and commitment to a progressive vision of education as a vehicle of transformation in society. The NTEU impressed me as the most attractive national organisation bringing together the collective strength of staff. The NTEU is important in acting as a national and local voice for staff in policy debates. The NTEU also represents staff interests more effectively than other unions around broader social and political issues of vital importance including global warming and indigenous rights.’



‘Higher Ed has a very different ethos and culture to TA is better o FE. Neither r worse, t hey are just d ifferent. T h e research expectatio n and oppo rtunities a s well as th e vocation al focus are what reall y set them apa rt.’



iv Farrell is used to challenging traditions and stereotypes. She is one of only a few women in Swinburne University’s computer science and software engineering. She has successfully crossed from TAFE teaching to university lecturing and researching. Viv is now asking how Victoria’s court system can overcome generations of procedural and physical tradition to better use information technology in trials. Viv is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of ICT and a member of the Swinburne NTEU Branch Committee. She teaches and researches in the areas of humancomputer interaction (HCI) and eForensics. ‘I’m really interested in how people interact with computers. It’s about their usability,’ Viv says. ‘My teaching area at the moment is in human computer interaction. In 2012 we will be hosting OZCHI the premiere HCI conference at Swinburne. I also run the graduate certificate in eForensics: cyber crime and law; gaining evidence from electronic equipment and presenting it in court; risk analysis and mitigation.’ Viv has been able to combine these two interests in a research project examining the way IT evidence is presented to Supreme Court juries. ‘Forensic evidence gathered by experts today is increasingly sophisticated,’ according to Viv. ‘Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on equipment in forensic labs, but when the evidence is presented to court it can be played on a $20 CD player, compromising the quality of sound. There is a real disparity between the sophistication of the evidence gathering equipment and the way it is presented, and that disparity often defeats the purpose of the evidence.’ According to Viv, Australian courts have found it difficult to manage the complex issues associated with electronic forensics, to do with evidentiary procedures and the management of such information in a court context. ‘Courts are bound by tradition, not only procedurally, but in physical terms: it’s even hard to alter these heritage listed buildings to install wires and ICT hardware.’ Viv says that court authorities are sometimes sceptical about the ability of juries to use ICT in trials. ‘Juries are increasingly made up of students and retirees – often the only people who are available for jury duty. And the courts lack confidence in the retirees to embrace new technologies. I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment.’ If there is to be greater use of ICT in courts, Viv insists that its most important characteristic will be for a simple usable interface. The need for courts to improve their use of technology is pressing, given the massive increase in cyber crime. ‘Identity theft and paedophilia are

expanding rapidly through ICT,’ says Viv. ‘Every instance of new technology opens the way for new security holes. For example, in recent years Eastern European gangs have targeted Australia for electronic fraud installing card readers on one of our “big 4” bank ATMs where upgrades had not occurred.’ eForensics is a teaching and research area of growing importance and interest to students. Viv’s teaching experience in IT goes back a long way. She started working at Swinburne in 1987, teaching maths and IT in TAFE for 13 years before moving into the university part of the institution. It is not a particularly common career trajectory, but for the Swinburne NTEU Branch it is useful experience to have on the Branch Committee. ‘Higher Ed has a very different ethos and culture to TAFE. Neither is better or worse, they are just different. The research expectation and opportunities as well as the vocational focus are what really set them apart,’ she says. With an ever-growing role for TAFE in the provision of pathway programs and degrees, the terms and conditions of staff in TAFE are becoming major considerations for the NTEU, especially in dual sector institutions like Swinburne. Having union activists who are familiar with both sectors, as is Viv, is really important. Like many of the NTEU’s activists, Viv is keen to combine her enthusiasm for teaching and research with active participation in the Union. It’s another way to be engaged in the life of the University. ‘The education system is changing rapidly, with new pressures being felt from above in relation to funding and technologies. These new requirements are cumulative and have substantially changed the workplace,’ Viv said. ‘I felt there was a need to take stock of the effect of all these changes and their impact on employees. By joining the Union I have been able to view the University holistically. I can raise issues for my colleagues and have their voice heard as part of a collective. As an individual this is far more difficult. The Union has always negotiated my conditions and I felt it was my responsibility to support its work.’ As well as her role on the Swinburne NTEU Branch Committee, Viv recently took on the job of representing the Union on the academic workloads negotiation team. She is hoping an agreement on a viable and fair workload model will be reached by the end of the year. Asked about the future of information technology, Viv doesn’t hesitate. ‘We still tend to interact with computers in a way that is determined by the technology, using keyboards and so on. We need to move to ubiquitous computing that offers more natural ways of interaction based on intuitive, human forms of communication.’ Perhaps there is something in that for university managements as well. NEXUS SUMMER 2011


‘Self check-out and check-in machines are widely used in libraries now, and they’re increasingly being used to justify staff cuts.’

ibraries in tertiary education institutions are increasingly at the sharp end of technological and work practice changes. They have also traditionally been centres of union activism and solidarity. These two facts are behind the efforts of library staff from Monash, Melbourne and RMIT universities to form a cross-institution network of NTEU library activists. ‘Libraries have a lot in common across universities’, says Keely Chapman from RMIT. ‘And the kinds of issues we confront as staff members and unionists are bringing us even closer together. Forming a network of library delegates enables us to share experiences and hear what is happening at other institutions.’ The biggest and most obvious issue shaping libraries today is technological change in the way information is stored and disseminated. Electronic resources have profoundly changed the nature of libraries, in positive and negative ways. Undoubtedly, the internet and online resources have made information and knowledge more widely accessible. But online resources are not cheap. ‘At RMIT,’ says Keely, ‘in addition to supplying “traditional” services, libraries are now expected to develop and maintain the nation’s open access institutional repositories. Our Vice-Chancellor has nothing but praise for the research repository but hasn’t directed funding to resource it. The Library has been expected to find required funding through grants, salary savings and so on.’



Article: Colin Long Photos: Atosha McCaw

Technological change is not just confined to the storage and communication of information. ‘Self checkout and check-in machines are widely used in libraries now,’ says Katie Wood, a delegate at the University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library. ‘And they’re increasingly being used to justify staff cuts.’ Indeed there is probably no area of our tertiary education institutions where technological change is having a more direct and substantial effect on staffing than in libraries. In most university libraries there has been a reduction in staff numbers over the last decade. In the case of Melbourne University, more than 20 jobs have been lost since 2000. Some of this decrease is due to the closure of branch libraries and, at Melbourne at least, a decline in the “turnstile count” – the number of people coming through the door. But self checkout machines and other technologies are surely also important. Electronic sources also enable library managers to outsource functions traditionally performed inhouse, according to Jenny Klingler, an NTEU delegate in the Monash library. ‘We’re having to deal with the outsourcing of cataloguing at the moment,’ says Jenny, ‘on top of the loss of quite a few staff through voluntary and forced redundancies in the Information Resources area.’ One of the most striking manifestations of change in libraries is the reconfiguration of the staff profile. According to Katie Wood, there has been a polarisation of classification levels. ‘By polarisation I mean that it seems like the plan is to consolidate librarians with good qualifications, while moving more of the service and day-to-day operations to unskilled student casuals,’ says Katie. The figures for the Baillieu Library bear this out: there has been substantial growth in numbers of HEW 7-10, but a massive reduction in the numbers of HEW 3-4, with much of the work of the latter being picked up by casuals. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that there is recognition of an increasing level of

skill required of library staff, and this is reflected in the greater number of staff at higher HEW levels. While technological change in the way information is stored and communicated is having a dramatic effect on libraries, the way this plays out in individual institutions is not uniform. For instance, while there has been a decline in the number of people visiting Melbourne University’s libraries, according to Keely Chapman at RMIT in-person visits have grown. There are many factors shaping the contemporary library – new technologies, the increase in off-campus and online study, a reduction in the amount of time spent by students on campus, increased academic workloads that reduce the amount of time academics have to visit libraries, a general shift of universities from places of learning and research to business-oriented corporate entities. But despite these changes, one thing has stayed the same – the prominence of libraries as places of union activism and membership. ‘We have organised meetings for library NTEU members to inform them about clauses in our enterprise agreement and to discuss and raise issues,’ says Jenny. ‘We are encouraging members to raise the NTEU profile in the workplace by simple things such as displaying the NTEU flag at their desks.’ Katie, Keely and Jenny have been instrumental in the establishment of a new network of NTEU library delegates. All three are endorsed delegates in their library, along with several others who have put their hands up. It is this kind of organisation – the identification and endorsement of delegates who are respected and active in their work areas, with regular communication of union activity to members, as well as the forging of links with staff from other institutions – that builds confidence in members to participate in collective action and that is crucial to the development of real union power in our workplaces.



Keely Cha

Jenny Klingler,

Monash University

Photos: Andrew Curtis


The Monash University library delegate network has expanded to eleven delegates in 2011, covering seven of the eight libraries on five of the six Monash University Victorian campuses. We have had email discussions and a meeting or two of the delegates, but given the distance between our campuses we have not managed to get all of us together at once. The Monash Branch Organisers have organised meetings of Library NTEU members to endorse the library delegates on each campus. One of the early actions the Library NTEU delegates took was to ask for draft minutes of our Library Management Committee to be sent out before its next meeting. We were not successful but at least let them know staff would like to know earlier about what decisions are being made. At a recent meeting we let our members know about the job losses at Melbourne University Library. There has been a new Research and Learning Co-ordinator structure created at Monash Library with Learning skills staff and subject librarians reporting lines changing. Staff expressed concerns about this and so we are drafting a letter to Library management about the issue. Another issue raised and discussed was generic Position Descriptions, which we worry will be used to ask staff to do work for which they weren’t trained, or which wasn’t required of them when they applied for the position originally. We don’t want staff to be “managed out” of their jobs on the basis of unfair generic PDs. NEXUS SUMMER 2011

The RMIT Library delegate network consists of ten members representing a five library sites. Selection of delegates was done by democratic elections, managed by our Branch President, Melissa Slee. Our first meeting was held i November last year and since then we hav held regular meetings at three different library sites. Issues we have dealt with include lack of career progression for HEW 4 staff, inappropriate rostering of staff an the enforced wearing of red t-shirts by lib information desk. The emphasis libraries have placed on a big issue. While resulting in very happy of marketing opportunities for the library supply of research materials (including eopportunity for gathering accurate use sta apply for funding. However, despite the in in-person use at RMIT has not declined. In increased to midnight a couple of years ag Staff numbers have not been deliberate online technologies, but as technology has library staff do, there has been a lot of res them towards new areas of development research repository). Job roles have been that absolute numbers of library staff hav years. Lastly, the fact that university libraries also continues to be an excuse for the pay professions, particularly those with highe A lot of people assume that librarians don I continue to see library staff with Master lower wages compared to other professio


Katie Wood,

Photos: Alex White

Photos: Keely Chapman

University of Melbourne


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e-resources over the past ten years is library patrons, there has been a loss y. The seamless “anywhere, anytime” -books) has also meant a loss of atistics which are then used to justify/ ntroduction of online collection items, n fact, semester opening hours were go to cope with demand. ely reduced in response to the use of s changed the nature of the work that shuffling of existing budgets to direct (like the learning repository and redefined also. Still, I am aware at RMIT ve apparently declined over the last ten

are overwhelmingly staffed by women yment of low salaries compared to other er proportions of male participants. n’t need any formal qualifications and rs and PhD qualifications on significantly ons.

We campaigned this year when the library made thirteen HEW 3 staff redundant: the excuse for this was that a new service model due to new technologies meant that the HEW 3 level was now redundant. It is obvious that HEW 2 student casuals will be taking up the work. We set up a campaign working group at the first members’ meeting which had nearly half of all library staff attending. That group was made up of a core of about eight or nine people who attended a weekly meeting to organise the campaign. We ran a successful stall on the day the renovations were opened to the public, a protest of about 100 staff and students with an article in The Age the following day, a petition signed by about 1000 people and numerous members’ meetings. Unfortunately, while we saved some jobs, we couldn’t save them all, but there are four or five people left in the working group who meet on a semi-regular basis and have done a couple of things since the campaign, such as hand out leaflets at a management-organised meeting on PDF changes. A week or so ago the Melbourne Uni activists met with three of the RMIT delegates to talk about common issues and what we are doing. It was a really nice thing to do and I hope in the future there can be even more communication between the different groups.



any NTEU members would not be aware of the diversity of our membership. Often university staff are unaware that we also cover non-teaching (PACCT) staff in TAFE; staff in adult and community education; staff in higher education private providers; and staff in private and government-funded research institutes. The list of research institutes in which we have members is already pretty long: Baker ID Heart and Diabetes Institute, the Burnet Institute, the Howard Florey Institute, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Mental Health Research Institute, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, and the Lowitja Institute (Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research), to name a few. Most of these institutes are engaged in the vital field of health research. Despite the importance of their work, many of our members are employed under tenuous conditions, with short-term contracts and highly dependent on project-specific funding. Recent growth in membership in the research institute sector has spurred the consideration of the formation of an NTEU branch dedicated to them. One research institute NTEU member is Dave Trevacks. Dave is a Senior Technical Officer – a “jack of all trades,” in his words – at the Howard Florey Institute, where he has worked for 20 years. ‘Research institute staff have a pretty distinct identity,’ says Dave. ‘We’re not employed by universities, so it sometimes feels a bit strange to be included in university NTEU branches.’ As Dave says, there is a commonality of interest and industrial experience between staff in research institutes that is stronger than the link they currently share with university branches by virtue of the fact that

their research institute is auspiced by or associated with that university. Recognising this common interest and providing a branch through which it can be expressed would enable more effective campaigning and organising around the issues of concern to research institute staff – issues which tend to be swamped in the workload priorities of the university branches. ‘Research institute staff tend to move around within the research institute world. It’s a fairly closed system,’ according to Dave. Staff in the stand-alone research institutions are not directly interested in the majority of the business done by the university branches – they are not affected by the university enterprise agreements or policies, and they are generally separately located geographically. As a result, they tend not to actively engage with the branches they are currently members of. The representation of research institute staff in branch, division and national elected structures of the NTEU has been low. The NTEU is currently consulting with affected branches and members to gauge support for the idea of establishing a separate branch for members employed by stand-alone research institutes. Dave Trevacks thinks the idea’s time has come: ‘we’ve got growing membership in research institutes, they’re becoming ever more important in the nation’s research agenda, and it’s time staff in them had a stronger presence in the union.’ We encourage NTEU members who work in research institutes and who would be interested in forming such a branch to contact the Victorian Division on 03 9254 1930 or email



: Jenny Article

he Delegate and Activist Conference, held on 1st August 2011, was a stimulating and fun day. We heard interesting speakers and had a chance to network and time for questions. The keynote speaker was Matt Finnis, the CEO of the AFL Players’ Association. He was a lively speaker and it was great to hear about a different sort of organisation which represents its members. The emphasis on solidarity and basic union philosophy was surprising and heartening. The 100% density that the AFLPA has makes it a very effective union and every other union very jealous! Colin Long filled us in on the evolving strategic vision for the Victorian Division of the NTEU, which was really valuable for us to hear. As delegates we don’t often get to hear the bigger picture things from the NTEU. The paper Colin shared with us, Growing the sector, growing the NTEU helped us focus on some of the challenges facing the NTEU. I particularly liked seeing the draft Statement of Purpose, which defined the role of the NTEU as having more than a narrow industrial focus - something I agree with strongly but have had discussions with others about, who disagree with this. The part of the statement that really said it for me was that the NTEU is about





“defending and extending workplace democracy and collegiality.” I feel strongly that this is an important role and is needed to turn around workplace culture where management seems to work against these principles. The issue of the rights of delegates was discussed and it is clear that rights and protections for delegates need to be strengthened. There were various group sessions on delegates’ duties and the skills, knowledge and attributes of a delegate. It was good to work with delegates from other institutions on these issues. A panel of three active delegates talked about their experiences as a delegate. It’s great to hear what others are doing and how they go about it. The controversial issue of using an external company to do recruiting as a trial was raised as a concern. Colin filled us in on his perspective on this. We came away from the conference with renewed enthusiasm and some new ideas for our role as delegates. Some of us found new contacts to network with. All in all it was a really useful and enjoyable conference.


M Atosha

ORGANISING FOR SUCCESS n the last edition of Nexus, we published an article on the challenges facing tertiary education in the years ahead, and outlining the need for the union to rethink the way it does many things to meet these challenges. The transformation of the Union into a dynamic organising force, winning progressive employment conditions and remuneration, and defending and extending workplace democracy and collegiality, is a work in progress. It requires a concerted effort by elected officials, staff and members to ensure membership growth and a culture of organising. What do we mean by this? An essential element of this organising approach is giving members a collective experience of successful workplace action. While it remains important to ensure the individual needs and interests of members are attended to, the point of the organising approach is to build sufficient workplace union power so that poor management behavior that affects individuals - like redundancies or poorly handled restructures -


does not occur in the first place. In addition, collective power will enable us to achieve quicker and more satisfying collective bargaining results. Delegates are vital to this form of organising, since we know that delegates - colleagues - understand workplace issues best and are able to mobilise their colleagues most effectively. That is why the NTEU is placing heavy emphasis on delegate development. The 2012 collective bargaining round offers an opportunity to consolidate and extend our organising efforts. We need to use this as a focus for giving members experience of collective action; we need to expand our delegate networks and refine the interaction between delegates, branch committees, the Victorian Division and the National Office. We need to ensure that branch committee members have roles in campaigns that are clear and manageable. We need to use bargaining and the leadup to it to improve our ability to run large scale strategic campaigns that give large numbers of members the experience of working together. The shift to a dynamic organising union needs to be widely understood and welcomed by all members. This is

because the organising approach aims to truly make manifest the slogan "the union is its members". Part of the process of making this shift is to engage members in a discussion about the direction of the union, and to encourage discussion and debate about the way we organise. That’s why we’ve established a website, complete with a discussion paper and a draft strategic statement and a blog that gives members the opportunity to comment. Go to www., read the material and join the discussion. Together we can build the growing, organising union that we all want.

‘That’s why we’ve established a website, complete with a discussion paper ... and a blog that gives members the opportunity to comment.’




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u     For academics, workload models are seldom entirely adequate, and often in flux. There is usually substantial variation between and within institutions, and limits are often difficult to apply because of lack of enforceability in agreements and the individual nature of workload negotiations with Heads of Schools who are often under budgetary pressure. u     The interaction between workload models and research activity definitions is often complex, and made more so by ERA. Many universities are using definitions of research activity to target staff for relegation to teaching-only roles or redundancy. As a union we face a number of difficult issues. We need to recognise that enforceable workload limits tend to increase casualisation, in the absence of increased funding for contract and ongoing positions. Any campaign for improved workload management systems must also be a campaign for improved career paths for sessionals, and more permanent jobs. This raises the thorny issue of teaching-focused, teaching-intensive or academic teacher positions. Most universities have already established positions – mostly by moving existing staff into them – which involve academics doing no research. Traditionally, citing the teaching-





































research nexus, the NTEU’s response has been to resist such positions. However, some of our members would prefer to concentrate on their teaching, scholarship and service, rather than on research. We have a decision to make. Would it be better for universities to employ a certain fraction of academics in teaching-focused positions that are contract or ongoing and with all the benefits otherwise afforded by our agreements and to reduce the number of sessional academics? Should we explore the creation of something like the old “tutor” category for postgrad students - contract positions for several years to conduct tutorials? Other important questions we must ask ourselves include: u     How do we ensure real limits on general staff workloads?

u     How do we respond to the introduction of additional teaching periods to ensure that general staff have breathing space between semesters and time for leave?

I welcome a debate about all these issues over the coming 12 months. In the meantime, concerted efforts must be made in all branches to enforce existing workloads clauses and to build campaign momentum so that we can get improved outcomes around workloads at the bargaining table next year.

‘Would it be better for universities to employ a certain fraction of academics in teachingfocused positions that are contract or ongoing and with all the benefits otherwise afforded by our agreements and to reduce the number of sessional academics?’



s stitute ‘TAFE in employers jor are ma nal areas, in regio a real focus ing provid munity life, for com tunities and or job opp ic activity.’ econom

Article: Colin Long Photos: Alex White


sk any staff member at a regional TAFE about the importance of TAFE institutes to regional areas and you’ll get a pretty clear answer. ‘TAFE not only provides important post-school education and training for young people,’ Anne Kinne, NTEU TAFE Branch President and East Gippsland TAFE staff member says, ‘it also helps people who have been in the workforce to learn new skills or upgrade their skills. But not only that – TAFE institutes are major employers in regional areas, providing a real focus for community life, job opportunities and economic activity.’ Indeed, it is not only in regional areas that TAFE institutes play a vital role. Melbourne’s metropolitan TAFEs are vital to the development of a skilled and educated workforce, and, together with regional TAFEs, are increasingly cooperating with universities to provide pathway programs, associate degrees and even degrees.


Victoria’s four dual sector TAFE institutions (TAFE and university in the same institution) and fourteen stand-alone TAFEs have been built up over decades with substantial public investment. That investment is now at grave risk thanks to the policies of the State Government. ‘The Government has shown contempt for the efforts and needs of TAFE PACCT staff [non-teaching staff, which the NTEU covers]’, says Anne Kinne. ‘We’re currently negotiating new collective agreements in the stand alone TAFEs, and it’s been incredibly difficult because of the State Government’s arbitrary 2.5% cap on pay rises. Lots of PACCT staff are paid much less than people doing the same jobs in dual sector TAFEs or in local government and other places. It’s just not fair that the Government wants to hold our wages back to less than the rate of inflation.’ The NTEU’s TAFE organisers, Janet Bourke and Garry Ryan, have been patiently negotiating to introduce a new, modern classification structure

for PACCT staff. ‘Some of the big metropolitan TAFEs can afford to introduce the new structure,’ says Janet. ‘But many regional institutions find it really hard to afford, despite all managements agreeing that the new structure is necessary. The risk is that staff at metro TAFEs will end up being paid more than people in regional institutions – just because they live in different parts of the state.’ While the bargaining struggle has been a long one, and involved strikes at Bendigo and Kangan-Batman TAFEs, it should be resolved by the end of the year. More problematic in the long term is the State Government’s recent changes to funding arrangements for TAFE. The previous State Government introduced market competition into the TAFE sector, under the banner of Skills Reform. Fundamental to this was the opening up of government funding to private providers as well as the public TAFEs. At the time, the NTEU and Australian Education Union warned that this would lead to cherry picking of profitable courses by

private providers; pressure on public TAFEs that have a much broader remit and which provide many more services to students (like libraries, for instance); a decline in training standards; and inadequate ability to concentrate resources into areas of key skills need. ‘Everything we warned about is coming true,’ says Brian Hughes, NTEU TAFE Branch Vice-President, who works at Kangan Institute of TAFE, ruefully. ‘The new funding arrangements are essentially about shifting money from the public TAFEs to private businesses. It puts at risk all those decades of public investment in skills training – all because of the ideological obsessions of treasury bureaucrats and politicians.’ The Government’s funding changes include: u A significant cut in funding from the budgets of the eight biggest TAFEs. u Increase in apprenticeship course fees of almost 60%.

u The scrapping of limits on course fees.

u Changes to the industry weightings, that will see cuts in the amounts of money provided for certain courses, such as tourism, recreation and fitness training.

The latter change will also see some private providers lose funding, especially those that saw opportunities to cherry pick these popular courses. But this just points out that an unplanned market-based system leads to inefficiencies in resource allocation that have to be corrected down the track. Brian and Janet are already starting to hear of the redundancies that the NTEU warned about. ‘Public TAFE institutions get more funding per student than private providers for a good reason – they have a broader social responsibility and provide more services for students,’ according to Janet. ‘Cutting that funding will

lead to job losses and declines in the quality of TAFE education.’ ‘The problems in TAFE now are caused by an explosion in the number of private providers, many of them offering cheap taxpayer-subsidised courses, undercutting the tradition of high quality education provided by public TAFEs,’ says Brian. ‘What we need now is a major review of Skills Reform policy, and an end to the slow destruction of the public TAFE system. TAFE staff, and the nation’s skill needs, are too important to be left up to the market.’



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Nexus - Summer 2011