There were minor but significant differences between the two draft treaties. While the academic agreement was very similar to that of the previous EBA, the agreement for administrative staff set extremely strict conditions for additional basic salary increases that staff receive each year that they stay at university. In its draft contract, the university proposed that supplements for all middle-level administrators be conditional on the officer receiving an „exceptional“ rating – the highest possible – during its annual performance review. In the meantime, senior administrative staff „would not apply at all to incremental progression.“ It was practically a permanent wage freeze. Melbourne University strikes employees on campus in 2013.Credit:Toby Cotton Typically the bargaining process would be shared with the university and union negotiators meetings to share a „list of demands“ that deals with the main things they want in the deal. However, at the first meeting in February 2017, the university had already drawn up two draft contracts: one for academic staff and one for administrators. In a string of email tests between the university`s negotiator, Sean Hogan, and National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) general secretary Grahame McCulloch, McCulloch argued that the divided agreement was an attempt to „strengthen your negotiating position by sharing staff.“ University staff were first informed of GDP in December 2013, but the story of what changed depending on whether you were part of the academic or administrative staff. In mid-2018, after 18 months of tense fighting, the university finally signed a single agreement covering both academic and administrative staff. The program, implemented between July 2013 and February 2015, included a comprehensive review of the university`s administration, which management considered „ineffective.“ More than 500 directors were laid off and many more had to reapply, often with lower salaries.
All this talk about mass layoffs, big business and job inecarity could give the impression that the University of Melbourne is running out of money. That is not the case. The first major cost-cutting initiative was the Business Improvement Program or GDP. The mere mention of the programme still raises the hackles of the management of the University of Melbourne. „Oh, look, no one liked it,“ admitted former Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis when I interviewed him earlier this year, „nobody had a great time.“ Management considered GDP to be a great success. The program achieved savings of $80 million in the first full year, a figure that continued to increase. But several staff members who were interviewed for this story claim that the program only worked by forcing academics to manage administrative minutiae previously handled by dedicated collaborators. „There`s a kind of big gas exercise,“ said Brocklesby, director of marketing and communications at the University of Melbourne and representative of the National Tertiary Education Union. „The expectation that you can`t complain because you`re so happy to be here.“ It`s a mining boom,“ Glyn Davis told the interviewer, and like all mining booms, it`s the end, so you`re investing it in things that will be important for the future. For the university`s management, these are buildings that will play a role in the future. Most academics have had to shoulder the additional administrative burden without compromising their other teaching, research and management duties, which means they have to do so in their own time. Many regretted accepting the „big deal.“ However, after the experience of GDP, academic staff were cautious in reaching an agreement at the expense of administrative staff.