Uni AWA talk speculation: Nelson

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Uni AWA talk speculation: Nelson

The office of Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has said fears that university academics would have to sign Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) in order to secure research funding were 'simply speculation'.

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The office of Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has said fears that university academics would have to sign Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) in order to secure research funding were 'simply speculation'.
 
Newspaper reports that Cabinet yesterday considered such a move raised the suspicions of the National Tertiary Education Union, which told WorkplaceInfo today that if the claims were true, it would 'fight this with all the means at our disposal'.
 
The reports said the proposal being considered would most likely be unveiled on Budget night on 14 May, and would work either by allocating research grants only to universities which already used AWAs, or by making a grant conditional on the academic signing to an AWA.
 
NTEU national president Carolyn Allport was in a conference all day today, and unable to be contacted, but said in a statement that linking research to individual contracts would be 'nothing but an underhand and tricky means of lowering the working conditions of Australian university staff'.
 
Allport said at least 42% of academic staff would be affected if the reports were true. She said such an arrangement 'makes a complete mockery of the idea of research grants being based on academic merit and is an unacceptable government interference in the management of universities'.
 
Furthermore, she said, it would push more researchers offshore, in direct contradiction to the Government's stated aim of trying to attract back Australian researchers who are currently working overseas.
 
Another claim had the Government ready to amend IR laws to make strikes by academics at Australia's 38 public universities a breach of national interest.
 
Allport said this would be 'an undemocratic and completely over the top response' from the Government, which would meet little support from either staff or students.
 
The Government has been consulting with stakeholders for a year in its Crossroads review into higher education, and a union spokesperson said at no stage had the Minister raised such prospects with the union.
 
But a spokesperson for Nelson told WorkplaceInfo that no announcements had been made about the review, and the reports were 'just simply speculation'.
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