IR, OHS and politics

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IR, OHS and politics

Sydney University is offering its 5,500 staff a 6% performance bonus to move to AWAs, in a move that has angered their union.

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Sydney Uni offers AWAS - but reluctantly

Sydney University is offering its 5,500 staff a 6% performance bonus to move to AWAs, in a move that has angered their union.

However the university is making it clear it has no ideological commitment to AWAs, and has itself warned staff to be cautious. The Federal Government insists that all universities offer AWAs to their employees by 31 August before they can receive federal funding.

Michael Thomson, President of the NTEU Branch at the University of Sydney, said the bonus was not guaranteed, and the AWAs would make it easier to sack staff, take disciplinary action and strip significant conditions off staff which are currently provided for under their collective agreement.

'Core conditions at risk include all leave arrangements, academic freedom - because of the draconian powers to terminate staff, and no access to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to arbitrate disputes,' he said.

Ideological warfare

'Universities should be about excellence in teaching and research, not about ideological warfare. The University can't explain how the AWAs will promote academic excellence.'

Staff will be sent AWAs in the next week, and the NTEU is advising staff not to sign them.

In offering the AWAS the university gave staff a special warning to carefully consider the risks of simpler procedures for employment termination and disciplinary action. The vice-chancellor, Gavin Brown, said staff who opted for a contract would retain the salary guarantees received under existing enterprise bargaining agreements, but would have access to annual performance bonuses of up to 6%.

Properly cautious

'This will allow genuine choice, offer staff a direct stake in the achievements of the university and allow for a more flexible workplace environment,' he said. 'Examples from other sectors suggest that staff will be properly cautious and there is certainly no coercion.'

The NSW secretary of the NTEU, Chris Game, said it was gratifying the university had waited so long to offer the AWAs.

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Lib MP accused of running 'unsafe' building site

The CFMEU has accused Federal Liberal MP Jackie Kelly of running an unsafe construction site, but she claims the union is trying to intimidate her.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union official Tim Vollmer and safety inspector Dick Whitehead visited Kelly and her husband's Nepean River property at the weekend, where they are building a new house.

The union alleges there are safety flaws at the site, including a lack of scaffolding, handrails and other fall protection.

Kelly's husband is alleged to have grabbed Vollmer by the arm and shoved him, breaking a video camera's microphone.

Right to inspect

Vollmer said the union had 'every right' to inspect the site.

However, Kelly said the site was safe and accused the union of using heavy-handed tactics and trying to 'intimidate' her because of the Government's workplace reforms.

The matter has been reported to the police. An official report on the site has been made by the union, which will be sent to WorkCover.

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