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Better Workplaces

Better UON

NTEU members on strike outside UON NUSpace building

Because UoN staff stood together against UoN management’s unilateral, low-ball offer last December and after determined campaign action by NTEU members, we’ve achieved a great outcome for ALL UoN staff.

Below is the key information about what’s in the new Agreements, and how we got there. Our next task is to make sure these new conditions are fully implemented and members make the most of them. Want to help with that? Click here.

What’s in the new Agreement?

Pay and expiry

Pay increase of 13%

The Agreement will provide a total salary increase of 13%.  These will be paid as follows:

  • 5% back dated to 1 April 2023;
  • 4% from 1 March 2024;
  • 4% from 1 March 2025.

Expiry date of 30 April 2025

  • With an expiry date of 30 April 2025, the increases work out to be 3.63%, one of the leading annual increases in the sector. The Bargaining Team was hoping to see more backpay included, unfortunately that was not possible.

Improvements for all staff 


Right to Switch Off

The Agreement includes a provision that no staff member (other than staff on call) will be expected to monitor university systems (including email) outside working hours.  This has been included to stop work encroaching on personal time, and to make it clear to managers that they should not be expecting responses outside working time.

University Holidays

The Agreement includes an additional 3 University Holidays at the end of year close down.   Staff will now enjoy 3 full weeks of each January and February but will only be required to take 6 days of leave to do so.

Substitute Public Holidays

Where a staff member and the University agree, you can substitute a Public Holiday for a different day.  As an example, this can provide a great benefit for a staff member who does not want to celebrate invasion day.’ No staff member can be required to change days.

Improved Benefits for Staff who Lose a child late in pregnancy or during parental leave

The Agreement provides much improved leave for staff who go through the traumatic experience of losing a baby late in the pregnancy of during their period of parental leave.  The time they can take has increased form 8 weeks, to their full parental leave entitlement of 26 weeks.

Family and Domestic Violence Leave

The Agreement has increased the amount of paid Family and Domestic Violence leave for ongoing and fixed-term staff from from 10 days to 20 days per year.  It has also introduced 10 days of paid Family and Domestic Violence leave for casually employed staff.

Gender Affirmation Leave

The Agreement will provide 10 days paid leave per year for staff to use for gender affirmation purposes.

Union Rights

The Agreement provides improved access to training for union delegates to ensure that they are in a better position to assist you.

Consultation on Change

Members would be aware that in the Agreements which staff overwhelmingly rejected in December management sought to strip much of the consultation requirements.  The new Agreement includes a new and improved consultation process that will require management to consider and provide information on workloads, to explore other options ahead of redundancies, and includes a review mechanism that will genuinely review the outcomes and hold managers to account.

Review Committees

Again, staff will recall from the non-union ballots in December that management was attempting to strip the critical review committees from the Agreement.  While the process has been changed somewhat (they will no longer be conducted as an adversarial process to ensure that people psychosocial welfare is protected) they have the same scope and responsibility in they will determine the facts and make recommendations.  This retention of these processes is critical to maintaining job security.

Life Leave

While not strictly a new condition the Agreements have introduced 10 days of Life Leave.  Life Leave replaces 10 days of personal leave and provides staff with a far wider opportunity to access these days.  For example, it can be taken as Grand Parent Leave, or any other purpose that is significant to a staff member.  Unlike other forms of leave it cannot be rejected.

Rejection of Leave

The Agreement contains a new provision specifically stating that leave cannot be unreasonable rejected.  This will assist staff who have had their leave rejected for what appears to be no valid reason.

Improvements for precariously employed staff 


Conversion for Fixed-term and Funding Contingent Staff

The existing Agreements allowed for conversion form Fixed term and Funding Contingent Staff only where they had been selected through a competitive and open selection process.  This ruled out many staff who had been appointed on nomination or other methods but had still provided high quality work for the University.  There are some thresholds to cross, but they will be able to be converted where they can demonstrate they meet the requirements of the role.  As they will have been in the role for at least 12 months the NTEU does not believe this should be an issue.

Professional Staff Casual Conversion – and Recognition of Service

The Agreement makes it easier for Casually employed Professional Staff to be converted.  It lowers the threshold for application, and places limits on the reasons for which conversion can be rejected.  Further, a staff member who is converted will have their service as a casual recognised for the purposes of accessing Parental Leave.  This may not benefit a huge number of people, but it is a massive benefit for those who are.

Academic Decasualisation

The Agreement will see the creation of 14 full time equivalent (FTE) roles aimed at providing employment opportunity for current precariously employed staff.  As a number of these jobs maybe be part-time this will provide the opportunity for many of the long-term career causals to become ongoing University employees.

Improved Provisions for the Payment of Academic Casuals

The new Agreement introduces a provision that requires that University to clearly allocate a total amount of hours for certain duties, and not individual piece rates.  A casual employee is to stop work when they complete these hours and the University must either give them more hours if there is work remaining or have the work finished in other ways.  The clause makes it very clear; wage theft is not acceptable, and staff are only to work the hours for which they are paid.

Improvements for Professional staff 


Right to Work from Home

The new Agreement provides Professional Staff a much-improved right to work remotely.  The new provision allows remote work applications to only be rejected where the work cannot be performed under the proposed working arrangements.

Professional Staff Workloads

The Agreement includes improved provisions to govern over work for Professional Staff.  Management must ensure that the work allocated can reasonably be performed in the time the staff member has available and that no staff member has an unreasonable workload.  The review process requires that management consider the impact of vacant positions, secondments and staff leave on workloads.


The new Agreement retains staff access to Flextime.  Management has argued that the Award, which must be followed, does not allow for Flex hours to carry over from one period to the next.  While the NTEU strongly disagrees with this interpretation management would not change the clause.  As such staff retain the access to Flextime but not the carry over. 

The NTEU will be reviewing these practices here and in other Agreements and will be seeking to ensure that carry over is reintroduces in the next Agreement in 18 months.

Improvements for Academic staff 


Academic workloads

This clause required the assistance of the Fair Work Commission. 

Staff would be aware that we are in the middle of a long running dispute over the new AWAMS.  The new Agreement includes additional protections.  Firstly, there is a clause explicitly stating that all work must be able to be completed in the time allocated for the work.  Further, for teaching work management must provide detailed information on what teaching is to be performed, what allocation will be given to the work and how they have calculated the allocation.  They must also make the allocations for all subjects available so staff can compare other areas.  The new clause does not require them to remove the AWAMs, but it does require the AWAMs to deliver fair allocations that can be reasonably completed. 

The changes will not be a silver bullet, and we will have to monitor and work to enforce the rights, but the NTEU believes that the clause will enable us to protect workloads.

How did we get here?

Bargaining commences

Enterprise bargaining commences between university management and NTEU bargaining representatives for a new enterprise agreement. Log of claims includes 12% pay rise (later updated to 15%), improved conversion rights for staff in insecure work, workload protections for academic and professional staff, numeric targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, and gender affirmation leave.
31 Aug 2021
12 AM

NTEU votes for protected industrial action

After little progress during negotiations, 97% of NTEU members vote yes to authorise taking protected industrial action.
19 Jul 2022
12 AM

NTEU members take industrial action

Members take rolling industrial action in the form of work bans: banning participation in staff appraisal processes and responding to management enquires outside 9am – 5pm weekdays.
05 Sep 2022
12 AM

NTEU 24 hour strike

Management is still not engaging on key issues of secure jobs, safe workloads, and fair pay. NTEU members strike for 24 hours and hold a rally at NuSpace city campus. Hundreds of NTEU members attend with support from other unions, students, and community allies.
21 Sep 2022
12 AM

UON management attempt to push through their Agreements

Mere weeks before Christmas, UON management bypass the NTEU and take an offer straight to staff with sub-standard agreements that deliver a real pay cut and strip core working conditions. NTEU members mobilise a ‘Vote NO’ campaign with support from other NTEU branches and students.
05 Dec 2022
12 AM

NTEU and staff reject UON management's agreement

NTEU members and staff overwhelmingly reject management’s non-union agreement. 89% of academic staff and 75% of professional staff voted no, forcing management to return to negotiations and bargain in “good faith”.
16 Dec 2022
12 AM

AHEIA strategy comes to light

Leaked strategy documents from the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA), the peak body representing 32 Australian universities, reveal managements’ strategy to drive down wages and erode conditions across higher education. The strategy advises managements to delay progress in bargaining and bypass NTEU through non-union ballots. It also gives detailed advice on how to access an intractable bargaining declaration and arbitration.
01 Mar 2023
12 AM

NTEU members stop work

Despite UoN staff delivering a clear message to management in December, there is still not making significant progress in negotiations. NTEU members stop work for 1.5 hours for secure jobs, safe workloads and fair pay.
29 Mar 2023
12 AM

NTEU rolling stoppages

NTEU members engage in rolling work stoppages for 10-minutes in each hour every day to escalate our campaign for secure jobs, safe workloads and fair pay.
01 May 2023
12 AM

UON management goes to FWC

Newcastle management lodges a s.240 dispute with the Fair Work Commission (FWC), which requests assistance in a bargaining dispute through conciliation. Management did NOT speak with Newcastle NTEU Branch about applying to the Commission before doing so.
23 May 2023
12 AM

NTEU members strike for 24hrs

NTEU members strike for 24 hours, demanding that UON management negotiate directly with the Union for fair agreements that are in the interests of staff.
01 Jun 2023
12 AM

Negotiations facilitated by FWC

A week of intensive negotiations are held, facilitated by the Fair Work Commission. In-principle agreement being reached between the parties.
05 Jun 2023
12 AM

Drafting finalised

Drafting meetings are held, with final drafts of the Agreements agreed, subject to final internal approval by the NTEU and endorsement by NTEU members.
22 Jun 2023
12 AM