Following last week’s CASA news, we were delighted to receive thoughtful and speedy correspondence from Jane Maze (Campaign and Communication Officer) and Stephen Darwin (ACT Division Secretary) of the NTEU ACT Division, on the proposed bonus to be paid to University of Canberra full time and part-time staff—excluding senior executive and casual/sessional staff.
We had mentioned that we were puzzled by media reporting from November last year that appeared to show NTEU support for the whole package, including the proposed bonus. Our source was the wording in an article published originally in The Australian, subsequently republished by Inside Higher Ed. We included the IHE link, which unfortunately was broken—it’s fixed now. This is what the article said:
STAFF at the University of Canberra will vote this week on an enterprise agreement that will link pay rises to the financial performance of the institution.
In what is thought to be an Australian first, the scheme also will include a bonus scheme for all staff if the university exceeds its projected operational surplus by $1 million, with the bonus pool capped at $2.5m.
The NTEU’s clarification is in line with what the University itself said at the time—that the bonus would be offered, but not as part of the Enterprise Agreement:
Outside the agreement, the University also proposes to bring in a bonus scheme where, after planned underlying margins are achieved, remaining surplus of $1.0 – 2.5 million is shared equally among all staff except senior managers. This could mean annual bonuses of around $1,000 – $2,500 per staff member; as a percentage of salary such a scheme is particularly valuable to lower paid staff.
(It’s also interesting to note that at the time, the exclusion of casuals wasn’t part of the press release.)
The response from the NTEU outlining their position is in full below.
We appreciate that in tough budgetary circumstances, Australian universities will need to think of ways to engage staff in cost-cutting. For the CASA community, however, the issue remains the extraordinarily ironic bracketing of casual staff with senior managers, and the exclusion of the lowest-paid from a bonus that their low pay helps to deliver.
And it’s an irony that compounds, given the promotion of the bonus on the grounds that “as a percentage of salary such a scheme is particularly valuable to lower paid staff”.
A bonus for lower-paid staff? Australia’s university casuals would like to see that.
- In addition to being excluded from bonuses (foreshadowed then, confirmed now), casual staff who taught last year were not eligible for backpay under the University of Canberra Enterprise Agreement 2013-2015 unless they had been working on the day of 23 December 2013 (unlikely, of course). The University chose to make the narrowest possible interpretation of the clause outlining entitlement to this backpay.
- The University of Canberra also introduced pay parking this year. Casual staff, unlike other staff, are not entitled to salary-sacrifice their parking costs. For most casuals, working less than five days per week, it would also only make sense to pay for parking at the more expensive per-day rate. Parking will end up as a considerably larger percentage of their low salaries.