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No end in sight to Macquarie dispute

Macquarie’s chancellor has stepped into its long-running industrial dispute.
Macquarie University has urged the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) to call off a strike planned for the beginning of the teaching year, and to focus instead on negotiating a new agreement for academic staff.
But the union said the strike was likely to proceed.
Macquarie’s human resources director, Tim Sprague, said the university was trying to reach an agreement that would give academics a 4 per cent annual pay increase. “Macquarie [would] be in the top 10 highest paying universities in Australia and our senior lecturers [receiving] over $100,000 by mid next year,” he said.
“Our most recent bargaining meeting was very positive and real progress was made, with concessions on both sides, and another bargaining meeting is scheduled for [this] week. We don’t understand why the union has now notified us of a strike in a month’s time – it appears a very cynical ploy.”
NTEU branch president Cathy Rytmeister said Macquarie’s claim of being a top payer “may be true in part”. But she said job security was the key issue.
“Until staff see some concrete evidence of a shift in the university’s position on the main claims for job security, they will hold to their resolution to take industrial action,” Rytmeister told Campus Review.
“We welcome the approach of management. But they’re just not touching the big issues.”
The university’s chancellor, former Labor state treasurer Michael Egan, has been drawn into the dispute in defence of vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz.
“The next ‘knock-out’ tactic we expect from the NTEU, based on what they’ve done at other universities, is a vote of no confidence in the vice-chancellor by a few union activists,” Egan said.
“I hope common sense will prevail and that the NTEU will abandon its strike threats and negotiate in good faith. Strike action will achieve nothing other than a disruption to the education of our students, loss of salary for members and a further loss of reputation for the NTEU.”
Rytmeister said the union was doing just fine. “We are recruiting like crazy,” she said.
However, she questioned the chancellor’s intervention.
“I find it extraordinary, having a background in university governance, that the chancellor is making a statement about industrial action – which is usually the role of executive management.”
Rytmeister stressed that the union had a role in representing both academic and professional staff.

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