UON management has called for non-union ballots on their proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.  Management, in releasing their draft Agreements, have withdrawn from a number of matters that were close to agreement. Instead they are now seeking to remove conditions and protections and asking you to endorse this course of action.

NTEU members encourage you to reject them and VOTE NO for the reasons below.

Undermining job security

At UON, approximately 45% of staff are employed on casual contracts, and a further approximately 25% of staff are on fixed-term contracts. The proposed Agreements do nothing to fundamentally change this. NTEU believes that the obligation of our public institutions, in receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars of pubic funding, is to create secure, quality employment. UON management appear determined to maintain massive levels of insecurity for UON staff.

ZERO new pathways for casually contracted staff

At UON, 45% of staff are on casual contracts, meaning a huge number of staff experience ongoing uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Unlike the life-changing improvements won this year at Western Sydney and Australia Catholic Unis, UON’s proposed agreement provides  zero new pathways for casually contracted staff to move into traditional secure academic employment.

The proposed Professional Staff Agreement removes the right for casual staff to apply for conversion under the Agreement, forcing staff to rely on other options such as the minimum Fair Work standards.

Workplace change provisions WEAKENED

Under the current Agreements management was required to usually consult with staff about changes before they developed any firm change plans. It was recognised that the best time to influence change was before a formal decision had been made.  They have removed this requirement. 

They are now only required to produce a change plan, give staff 2 weeks to reply and then consider responses and implement their changes. They have even removed the requirements of prompt and genuine consideration, and the requirement to act objectively and transparently. 

Staff would remember how they pushed the changes through in the last round of job cuts, it will be even easy under their proposed Agreements.  They have even removed the requirement to actually meet with the affected staff.  Further they will no longer be required to consider other options such as VR’s, attrition, redeployment, train and development when they are considering changes, but instead they will only have to consider these options when the are making a staff member redundant when in many cases it will be too late.

Committees of Inquiry GONE

These Committees, which include independent external chairs and staff reps are able to investigate allegations made against staff members. The Committees are a fair and reasonable process that allows staff to have confidence in the University processes.  They have been invaluable in protecting the jobs and careers of people who have faced incorrect allegations of misconduct, poor performance or issues arising from probation.

Important protection against termination GONE

Under the current Agreements a staff member could not be terminated for misconduct or a research code breach. For behaviour to result in termination it had to meet the Agreements standards of Serious Misconduct or a Serious Research Code Breach.  Management has removed these protections from the proposed Agreements.

Refusing to guarantee safe workloads and hours

The last couple of years have seen increasing workloads and workload intensification, which has become a widespread issue for university staff. UON’s proposed agreement does little to alleviate the stress and potential for psychosocial hazards in our workplaces, fails to recognise the contribution of UON staff during difficult times, and potentially exposes many staff to unacceptable workload risk.

Academic Workload protections

There is nothing in the new Academic Workload clause that protects staff from further increases in workloads. The new Agreement includes no right to an enforceable hours-based measure of academic activities, meaning staff workloads can increase at the discretion of the Head of School, without protection. They can continue to seek to increase workloads as they are trying to do with the new workload models*.

There is nothing in the new Academic Workload clause that protects staff from further increases in workloads. The new Agreement includes no right to enforceable hours-based measure of academic activities, meaning staff workloads can increase at the discretion of the Head of School, without protection. They can continue to seek to increase workloads.


* In an earlier version of this page the NTEU had included the removal of protections from this section. Management had previously removed the protections on the version they provided the Unions but reinserted them with no notice on the version that was sent to staff.

UNDERMINED Academic roles via Periodic Employment

These roles will serve to undermine Academic Roles and reduce job security. The roles can be 100% teaching roles with the only limits being they are more than 30% but less than 100% of a full time job. People employed in these roles do not need to be paid during non-teaching periods.

How soon until these positions start replacing the traditional 40:40:20 Academic as the standard form of employment?  How secure is your job if they can make a teaching and research academic redundant and replace them with a person who does 100% teaching and does not get paid during University breaks?

Teachers contact hours to INCREASE

Under the current Agreement, there are 820 contact hours per year normally at 20 hours per week with a maximum of 22 contact hours in any week- EA2018 Clause 73.5

In management’s proposed Agreement, there are 840 contact hours per year normally of 20 hours per week – BUT no maximum weekly contact hours (Schedule 16 2.3 (g)).

Professional Staff and Teachers overtime AT RISK

Currently many Professional Staff and Teachers have a span of hours that only allows the University to direct them to work between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm. Currently, any work directed by management outside these times must be paid as overtime, further staff cannot be directed to work these hours where due to their personal circumstances it would be unreasonable. 

Under the proposed Agreement management has extended the hours they can direct many staff members to work, without paying overtime to 7:00am through 7:00pm.   

The right for a staff member to reject these unsociable hours is greatly diminished as management is only required to take your personal circumstances into account as far as it is practicable for them.  These unsociable hours would mean staff may face additional childcare expenses and could limit the ability for staff to participate in after work activities.

Professional Staff regular hours AT RISK

The proposed Agreement allows Professional Staff hours to be averaged over a two week period.

Under the current Agreement, if a staff member is directed to work more than 35 hours per week they are entitled to overtime and further cannot be required to work the extra hours if owing to their personal circumstances it would be unreasonable to do so. Under the proposed Agreement, management could require staff to work up to 47.5 hours in a busy week and only work 22.5 hours the following week. 

While this is be a good thing if it was at the staff member’s initiative (hence we have Flextime, which allows a staff member to do this) it is unreasonable to be at management direction.  Many staff have commitments which mean they cannot work these patterns.

Short-changing staff

The pay offer of 9.5% over three and three-quarter years, or 2.5% per year, is less than inflation and below industry standards (including deals struck at Western Sydney University of 13.5-15.3%, Australian Catholic University of 14.55% and University of Tasmania of 13.5%).  UON will see staff receive a significant pay cut in real terms.

Figures are cumulative percentages (%) over the life of the proposed Agreements.

Management's creative maths is INSULTING

You’ve seen the creative maths from Management claiming that they are actually offering you a 13% uplift overall by monetising the extra leave for all staff. 

In the case of Academic staff they are saying it’s a 3.5% benefit.  Yet the current Agreement requires an Academic Staff member to work 1695 hours.  Whereas the proposed Agreement requires a staff member to work the same 1695 hours.  Creative and misleading maths at its finest.  And for Professional Staff, while the extra days are appreciated, staff are already working at full capacity or over. Has management offered to employ more staff to cover the work not done in these days off?  No, it will fall on the same staff to perform the same work in less days.

Monetising various forms of leave and adding the value to their 9.5% isn’t just bad  maths – it’s insulting to staff. The real-life, actual dollar difference to your take home pay would still only be 2.5% per year since our last Agreements expired.

Management’s creative maths appears intended to hide the fact that work intensification – getting more work out of people for the same or less money – is part of their strategy.


Rebadged 'Life Leave' is NOT at your discretion

The rebadging of 10 days of Personal Leave, called ‘Life Leave’, are not additional days. You would get the same amount of leave days but some fall into a new classification of  ‘life events’.

This potentially frees up time for staff to enjoy time away from work, but in the proposed Agreements in the definitions section, it is stated that a life event “means an event that in the opinion of the Chief People and Culture Officer or delegate is a life event”. If the CPCO doesn’t think that taking time off to look after your grandchildren is a life event – then you can’t take life leave for that. 

So life events are not up to staff – they are up to management.  Similarly, “unforeseen emergencies”, “moving residences”, attending significant cultural events” and “participating in volunteer activities” which are all reasons to take personal leave in the current Agreement, are only permitted if the Chief People and Culture Office agrees they are life events.

How does this work for Academic Staff?

Management claims that staff can now take 10 days life leave, and that staff have an extra 6 days of University holidays.  How does this work for Academic Staff?  Well, if you take both the 6 and 10 days off, you are required to work an extra 31 minutes every other working day to perform you job.  So, despite “gifting” you with this leave, you are required to work the same 1695 hours under the proposed Agreement as you were under the current Agreement.

The university's finances are NOT IN CRISIS

The Vice-Chancellor has recently said that they are “forecasting 2022 will result in a deficit of at least $23m for our University” and hinted that if staff reject their proposed Agreements, there may be consequences such as job losses.

NTEU have not seen the full forecasts that the VC is using, and therefore haven’t had a fair opportunity to analyse the assumptions made behind this figure. Nevertheless, it is a surprising claim. 

Healthy surpluses

In 2021 UON made a $185m or 19% operating surplus, higher than WSU’s 14% surplus and one of the highest of any university in Australia. And even if we generously discount temporary income factors (e.g. RBG $25m, Unrealised investment gains $31.8m, IDP Share Distribution $86m), this leaves a structural operating surplus of $43m or 4.5%

In fact, since 2011 UON has posted surpluses totalling $615.8 million. 

Reduced spending on staff

This surplus was built on the back of reduced spending on staff, which was down by $18m between 2020 and 2021. This combined with the bumper surplus meant that spending on staff as a share of income has now fallen to a multi-decade low of 48%!

Healthy balance sheet

Newcastle has around $660m in cash and liquid investments allowing it to easily absorb a small one off deficit. Unlike other universities Newcastle has almost no borrowings ($1.6m) against $1.6B of equity.

Capacity to pay

The Vice-Chancellor might outline challenges ahead saying “We know we are not alone among our sector peers across Australia, with most universities reporting similar challenges”. This is correct, and yet WSU, UTAS, and ACU have all worked with the union and committed to paying staff a fair pay rise of 13.5% or more!

How did we get here?

NTEU members have been campaigning for improved working conditions and pay for over 12 months. We’ve made reasonable proposals that we think will make UON a better place to work and study. Our reps had been in negotiations with UON management reps. Now, management have decided to walk away from that process and instead present us with a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum.

What’s a non-union ballot?

A non-union ballot is one in which management ask staff to vote on an agreement that does not have union agreement. This only very rarely happens in university bargaining.

What happens if we vote “no”?

We know you are exhausted and believe us, we resent the fact that management have sprung this on university staff with no warning and right when we are most in need to rest and recovery from a gruelling year… BUT…

Rejecting this offer by voting NO will force management back to the table and put the unions in a strong position to demand improved job security, safe workloads, and better pay for all staff.

Campaign posters

Poster 1

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Poster 2

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Poster 3

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