Home | News | ‘I stand with Niko’: Union petitions to save disabled academic’s job

‘I stand with Niko’: Union petitions to save disabled academic’s job

The body representing Australian university staff has petitioned to save the job of a Sydney University (USYD) lecturer facing termination of his contract because he has asked to continue to teach remotely due to ill health.

Dr Niko Tiliopoulos, senior lecturer at USYD School of Psychology, may be without a job by the end of the month after working at the university for 16 years.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) launched an ‘I stand with Niko’ petition, calling on USYD vice chancellor Mark Scott to overturn the decision and uphold the university's commitment to the Disability Inclusion Access Plan.

Dr Tiliopoulos suffers from multiple severe respiratory conditions and rheumatoid arthritis, making him more susceptible to severe illness when he's in the community.

The senior lecturer requested that he continue teaching remotely after the university transitioned back to face-to-face courses from July 1.

The university denied Dr Tiliopoulos’ request and has initiated a process under its enterprise agreement to terminate his employment.

The NTEU's petition to save Dr Tiliopoulos' job on X, formerly Twitter, has been viewed more than 16k times since October 11.

The petition states, “If Niko catches COVID, he faces a truly extreme risk. Niko and his doctors asked the University to let him teach remotely, just like he has since the start of the COVID pandemic."

NTEU NSW division secretary Vinch Caughley has condemned the Group of Eight (Go8) member for failing to accommodate Dr Tiliopoulous’ request for workplace adjustments.

“The University of Sydney claims to be an employer of choice for staff with disability, but they’re failing here,” Mr Caughley said. 

Mr Caughley claims the union has attempted to negotiate conditions to keep Dr Tiliopoulos employed; however, the university will continue with the termination process.

“The university is laser-focused on its stubborn refusal to consider remote teaching, but it’s also refused to give any details about its consideration of other options,” Mr Caughley said.

A spokesperson for the university said it remains committed to ensuring staff and students with disability have equal opportunities and strives to be an accessible workplace and place of study.

Dr Tiliopoulos’ received ‘exceptional’ feedback on his remote teaching delivery and expressed disappointment in the university's response.

“I’ve had to adapt my life to accommodate my disability, and I hope the University of Sydney will come to the table and discuss adapting its practices to genuinely accommodate the needs of its staff living with disability,” Dr Tiliopoulos told the media.

Flexible working and learning became the norm as a result of the pandemic lockdowns, and many Australian universities and workplaces have maintained hybrid learning and working environments post Covid-19.

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