UQ Bargaining update
Enterprise Bargaining (EB) negotiations for your wages and conditions are underway. We have been meeting with University management on a weekly basis and gained some headway. Here is a report back from your union representatives about the progress thus far.
Discussions have involved all parties coming together to form one Single Bargaining Unit (SBU). The SBU consists of all unions, management and some independent staff representatives representing themselves. As we always set out to do to enable meetings to be as efficient as possible, ground rules have been set in preliminary meetings thereby allowing the focus of the SBU to get down to the business of advancing our Log of Claims.
Likewise, UQ management tabled a list of objectives they wish to achieve through this process; objectives which require careful consideration as explained below.
Although it is still early days in the negotiations, there has been welcome movement from the University in relation to some leave matters such as Domestic and Family Violence leave and Parental Leave – items that are in our claim.
Management is agreeing with unions to introduce a standalone domestic and family violence leave clause to support those affected by domestic violence when in need. Unions have been seeking up to 20 days paid leave and management is in agreement that this type of leave and the amount of days one could access in a crisis situation ideally should not be limited or restricted.
Together/ASU is aware that many other employers have better minimum entitlements, to which management’s response was that it was 5 days or nothing in terms of an entitlement, as opposed to management discretion. While your union representatives are pleased that management are taking this issue seriously, we believe they can move further to meet industry and sector standards, particularly as an employer who claims to be family-friendly and interested in gender equity issues (noting that women are the majority of victims of this kind of abuse).
Management is proposing to enhance existing EB conditions for parental leave by proposing a new clause providing 14 weeks paid leave for primary carers employed by UQ who are not the birth mother. Your union representatives welcome this position, which was proposed by us in the last EB round but rejected.
With regard to annual and long service leave, management wants to go further than the present EB conditions regarding staff being able to cash out leave.
What they are seeking to do is to allow staff to cash out as much of their Annual leave entitlements as is legally possible.
In relation to long service leave (LSL), management are also pushing for staff to be able to cash out a period of leave without the present restriction of also having to take the same period as actual leave. Management’s EB update email to staff of 30 May suggested that only a portion of LSL could be cashed out, but their position at the bargaining table at present is that all of it be able to be cashed out.
It was pointed out by union representatives of the SBU that like annual and long service leave are there for a purpose and that is to allow staff to rest and recuperate from the stress of work and in the process become more productive in the long run. We added that under the proposal it would be possible, after accumulating four weeks of annual leave, for staff never to take leave during their period of employment and to cash out all leave from that point on. We feel this is a dangerous scenario and one we should not accept, do you?
The basis for this claim is “to give staff greater flexibility” because they believe this is what you want? Your union delegates have not heard members calling for the ability to cash out all leave and never take any holidays. In fact, we are aware of members wanting to purchase extra leave under the new provision introduced by the University, and which we are seeking to enshrine in the EB Agreement.
We understand that the University is keen to have a lower financial, annual and long service leave liability – we get that – however the University already has the ability to limit the amount of leave accrued by staff over certain limits and can direct you to take leave if necessary. As you know, there has been a crackdown on leave accumulation over the last couple of years. Your union representatives also understand why staff might be inclined to hoard leave, such as to use as a buffer in times of massive restructuring and uncertainty, given the current restructuring clause only provides for the typical private sector minimum of two weeks’ pay for every year of service.
Management is also proposing that staff should have to provide a Medical Certificate or Statutory Declaration for any period of combined personal, sick or carer’s leave that goes over three days. Union representatives of the SBU have problems with management citing unrelated incidents of unproven mis-use of personal, sick and carer’s leave to justify this proposal, but we believe that the proposal would unfairly affect staff in such genuine instances where they for example, end up falling ill themselves after three days of caring for their sick children!
Email your views and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and let your union representatives know what you think.