IR dependent funding rejected: universities

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IR dependent funding rejected: universities

Workplace relation’s requirements that some universities may never be able to achieve should not dictate university funding, the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee said in a report released this week.

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Workplace relation’s requirements that some universities may never be able to achieve should not dictate university funding, the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee said in a report released this week.

According to the report, 'Excellence and Equity: Foundations for the Future of Australia's Universities', the Federal Government's proposals to restrict funding for non-adherence to certain workplace relations requirements did not recognise the improvements already made by universities.

Universities had moved away from common, uniform salaries and conditions, according to the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee (AVCC) response to the Federal Budget’s higher education reforms. ‘Further progress will take time and resources to achieve. However, through appropriate use of opportunity provided by the enterprise bargaining process, universities, individually, are achieving outcomes that serve the longer term interest and will continue to do so.’

Under the Federal Government's Budget Proposals university funding will be made contingent on a demonstrated commitment to flexible working arrangements, a focus on a direct relationship with employees, and improved productivity and performance.

According to the Federal Government's policy paper, ‘Essential features will include evidence of fair and open performance management system which links access to salary movements to an individuals performance and evidence that an institution is actively offering individual employment arrangements to employees.’

At stake are $55.2 million of workplace productivity funds, and $404.3 million in increased course contributions over 2005 to 2007.

Reasonableness

The AVCC said it was hard to assess whether the Federal Government’s workplace relation’s requirements were reasonable because the Government had not set out the details of its expectations. 

‘Until it does so universities and the AVCC cannot assess whether its expectations are…consistent with improving workplace relations arrangements within each university.

‘There is considerable tension between the Government advocating local level arrangements suited to the enterprise and then requiring a specific pattern of arrangement at a national level.’

The Vice-Chancellors are calling on the Government to release the workplace relation’s requirements in detail so their feasibility can be assessed and to determine if access to the funding tied to them was possible. ‘If they are not – through forcing all universities into an unsuitable mold – the substantial additional funding offered in "Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future" will prove a mirage.’

Ultimately, the Government should ‘untie significant additional education funds from requirements for changes to governance and workplace relations,' the report said.

Any criteria set down by the Government should truly measure actions to increase workplace flexibility and arrangements that advantage the institution, rather than one particular path that must be taken which ultimately may prevent improvements, the report said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

'Yesterday’s AVCC’s response to the proposed workplace relations arrangements misses the mark,’ according to ACCI Chief Executive Peter Hendy.

‘Higher education institutions still have problems with the pattern bargaining approach to workplace relation’s arrangements. There is still a long way to go. More diverse, rigorous and outcome driven arrangements are required.’

Hendy said linking additional university funding to compliance with federal workplace relation’s policies provided incentive for institutions to undertake reform.

 

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