Gen­er­ous uni su­per scheme ex­tended

The Australian - - THE NATION - SIAN POW­ELL HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION WRITER

The uni­ver­sity union has suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated an ex­ten­sion of the 17 per cent em­ployer su­per­an­nu­a­tion con­tri­bu­tions en­joyed by tenured staff to fixed-term con­tract staff in all en­ter­prise agree­ments struck so far.

About half the en­ter­prise bar­gains in the sec­tor have been con­cluded in the cur­rent round, and al­though the union won the su­per­an­nu­a­tion con­tri­bu­tion bat­tle for fixed-term con­tract staff (re­gard­less of the con­tract length), it failed to get the deal for ca­sual staff.

Jean­nie Rea, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Union, said the in­creased use of fixed-term con­tracts in the sec­tor was a great con­cern.

“We’ve be­come very aware of it among re­searchers,” Ms Rea said. “What we’re find­ing is peo­ple are em­ployed on shorter and shorter term con­tracts, which have all the dis­ad­van­tages of con­tract em­ploy­ment, and one of them, of course, is ac­cu­mu­lat­ing su­per­an­nu­a­tion.

“So one of the things we’ve pushed for in this cur­rent round, and have suc­ceeded so far, is ex­tend­ing that 17 per cent su­per to peo­ple on lim­ited-term con­tracts. The ex­act pro­vi­sions vary a lit­tle.”

The em­ployer con­tri­bu­tion is 17 per cent on top of base salary and is higher than the 9.5 per cent re­ceived by most other work­ers.

Tony Shep­herd, chair­man of the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment’s land­mark cost-cut­ting task­force, sparked a de­bate about su­per­an­nu­a­tion when he told The Week­end Aus­tralian it was “prob­a­bly an over­sight, to be blunt” that his 2013 Com­mis­sion of Au­dit, which rec­om­mended dras­tic cuts to wel­fare, didn’t ex­am­ine the 15.4 per cent su­per con­tri­bu­tions en­joyed by the na­tion’s fed­eral pub­lic sec­tor work­force and politi­cians.

Ms Rea said col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing had helped work­ers in var­i­ous fields, in­clud­ing at uni­ver­si­ties, to get more than min­i­mum em­ployer su­per­an­nu­a­tion con­tri­bu­tions.

Dub­bing the uni­ver­si­ties’ atti- tude to­wards su­per­an­nu­a­tion con­tri­bu­tions for ca­sual staff “par­si­mo­nious” be­cause ca­sual staff earned com­par­a­tively lit­tle, she said the union’s main fo­cus had been on the is­sue of in­se­cure em­ploy­ment, and push­ing for a bet­ter “con­ver­sion” struc­ture, so that work­ers who worked on a num­ber of con­tracts be­came legally el­i­gi­ble for per­ma­nent em­ploy­ment.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­tin­ing on un­re­solved is­sues.

“There have been gains on both sides,” said An­drew Demp­ster, a man­age­ment con­sul­tant for the higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

“The NTEU has been suc­cess­ful at ex­tend­ing uni­ver­si­ties’ gen­er­ous su­per­an­nu­a­tion ar­range­ments even fur­ther. That’s a ma­jor achieve­ment and one which would be the envy of other in­dus­tries.

“In re­turn, some uni­ver­si­ties have se­cured changes to work­ing con­di­tions which will al­low them to run more ef­fi­ciently and with less bu­reau­cracy.”

Peter Ray­mond, a work­place re­la­tions con­sul­tant with the Aus­tralian Higher Ed­u­ca­tion In­dus­trial As­so­ci­a­tion, said the union did not win on all fronts.

“Unions got a nasty sur­prise in West­ern Aus­tralia when West Aus­tralian uni­ver­si­ties co-or­di­nated their bar­gain­ing for the first time, and they (the union) didn’t get as good a run at as they had hoped,” he said.

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