Staff vote to support job-saving employment agreement variation proposals

Variation request to be lodged with Fair Work Commission.

A majority of University of Wollongong (UOW) staff have voted in favour of proposed employment conditions variations that will help minimise job losses as the University confronts the financial impact of COVID-19.

86% of Academic staff and 87% of Professional Services staff voted in favour of varying their respective Enterprise Agreements by adopting a leave purchase scheme and deferring salary increases in return for a range of employment protections.

The vote came after a month of talks in the University’s Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), comprised of UOW management, Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) representatives.

With staff and local union support confirmed, the University will now lodge an application as soon as possible with the Fair Work Commission to vary the agreements for a period of two years.

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, thanked staff for supporting the Institution at a difficult time in its history.

“Your vote is a critically important step to help stabilise the University’s finances. Thank you for your collective leadership in helping make this change. The agreement to make a temporary adjustment and reduce personal benefits is a selfless act to support each other and our University.

“The position you have approved is distinctive and sets UOW apart. It is a local deal that is multiyear, inclusive of the interests of two unions (CPSU and NTEU) and helps minimise job losses,” Professor Wellings said.

The Vice-Chancellor acknowledged the continued uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and emphasised the need for staff to remain focused on their own health and wellbeing and that of colleagues, students and the community.

“The coming period will not be easy or straightforward. We should expect that budget recovery could take several years and for our organisation to undergo transformation.

“We will need to keep operational costs constrained, defer large-scale capital expenditure unless there are investments from major partners, and move rapidly to adopt organisational changes which deliver recurrent savings.

“The collective decision of staff to adopt the variations to the Enterprise Agreements is an important step on this journey. We should recognise the monumental work of members of JCC and their efforts in putting together the text of the variations we have now considered.”

The secret ballot, which opened on Friday 24 July and closed at 5pm on Tuesday 28 July, was preceded by a seven day access period during which staff could read the proposed variations and explanatory information, view an online briefing, ask questions and seek independent advice.

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