Staff at the University of Wollongong have voted to take protected industrial action after what they describe as a stalled process of renegotiating pay and conditions.
The vote was held on Friday afternoon and was supported by an overwhelming majority of NTEU members. Staff will next week decide on what action they will take.
Professor Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, NTEU branch president at UOW said the decision was taken after negotiations on a new pay deal slowed down.
"Management has been slow to agree to acknowledge and address problems with workload, the increasing number of casual staff doing work they are not paid to do and an over-reliance on fixed term contracts, a reluctance to deal with academic freedom matters and a really poor pay-rise offer of nine per cent."
The decision by UOW staff to go to a ballot comes as universities around Australia are rocked by industrial action during a national week of action. Professor Probyn-Rapsey said the issues UOW staff were facing were shared Australia-wide.
"We've got a situation where 70 per cent of people that work at unis are on casual contracts while managers in the upper echelon are earning astronomical salaries," she said. "Those wage disparities, job insecurities have filtered through the whole university system and are affecting almost every aspect of the ways in which universities operate."
In Wollongong in particular, staff are decrying the lack of engagement from the most senior managers.
"So far the Vice Chancellor has not participated at all in bargaining, hasn't shown any interest in responding directly to the union on these important matters," Professor Probyn-Rapsey said
A UOW spokesperson said there were regular meetings between staff and management.
"UOW management has been meeting regularly with representatives from the NTEU and CPSU staff unions to negotiate in good faith for the benefit of staff, students and the University's long-term sustainability," the spokesperson said.
At this stage, the impact on students is not yet known, with a decision among union members next week the next step before any action, whether it be a strike or other action, occurs.
"The main purpose is to make higher education as a whole better for those students," Professor Probyn-Rapsey said.
The UOW spokesperson said they were committed to an outcome.
"The University remains committed to working towards achieving enterprise agreements that ensure the University is a viable and sustainable organisation into the future; promote inclusive and equitable work practices; and provide supportive and flexible career pathways for staff."
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