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Industrial Action FAQs

In a meeting on Monday 1 May, 99% of attending NTEU members passed the following motion:

In light of the vote against Deakin’s non-union proposed agreement, we call on Deakin management to return to the negotiating table, specifically to schedule a bargaining meeting to happen by May 12th 2023 and commit to the presence of senior leadership decision makers at that meeting. If, by close of business Friday 6th May, no meeting has been scheduled, members will undertake a ban on teaching commencing Week 9 of trimester one, 2023. We will call off the ban as soon as a bargaining meeting, with committed attendance from decision-making senior leadership, is scheduled.

This motion has been sent to our Vice Chancellor, Professor Iain Martin, and we await his response.

Upcoming Industrial Actions:

Statewide Stop Work of Victorian Universities

May 3, Trades Hall, Carlton at 12pm

(Stoppage of work from 11 to 2:58pm)

Week 9 Ban on Teaching

8 – 12 May

To be called off in case of scheduled bargaining meeting

What protected industrial action can I take? 

The NTEU has notified two ongoing ‘partial bans’ that are indefinite in nature. That means that until you receive further communication from us, you can engage in those partial bans as often as you would like. Those bans are: 

  1. A ban on the delivery of teaching; and 
  1. Making statements while working explaining why members of the NTEU are taking industrial action. 

A partial ban is a form of industrial action that is not a complete stoppage of work. A complete stoppage of work means that you either refuse to show up to work (including online) or if you do show up to work, you refuse to do any work at all.  

The making statements action is a partial ban because you are performing other tasks, but also interrupting that work to make statements about why the union is taking industrial action.  

The teaching delivery ban is a partial ban because it is a ban on one aspect of your work (if teaching is a part of your work!).  

What does that mean? 

Making statements 

This means that you can make statements about the union’s claims in bargaining, and the Deakin’s dodgy deal, while you work and be protected from any repercussions (including being told to stop doing it). 

For example, if you’re a professional staff member and you’re sending an email, you might spend a minute or two typing out a message about a particular thing that you want to see in a replacement enterprise agreement, or why you think staff deserve better than what is being offered in the dodgy deal. If you’re in a meeting and asked to report on something that you’re working on, you might introduce that with a couple of minutes talking about why you’re participating in the union’s industrial action. If a colleague gives you a call to ask you a question, you might do the same thing. Remember, these statements are protected industrial action, and it is illegal for anyone to tell you to stop.  

For academic staff, in addition to the examples above, if you are delivering a class or seminar you might spend ten minutes talking about how hard you and your colleagues work to bring them the high quality education that they get at Deakin, and how the University is not coming to the table with a fair offer on wages and conditions. You can spend as much time as you like doing this, from a minute or two to the whole class. Casuals can participate in this action on the same basis as continuing or fixed term staff. 

Ban on teaching delivery 

This action is a bit more self-explanatory. Staff who teach are entitled to refuse to deliver any teaching while this ban is active. You should be available to perform other duties during the time you would have been delivering that class though. 

Can the University deduct pay if I participate in these partial work bans? 

The short answer is it depends. The longer answer is: 

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), where an employer is notified that members of the union will be engaging in protected industrial action that is a partial work ban, they have four options.  

  1. Accept you performing only part of your duties and continue to pay you in full. This is a common option in the Higher Education sector and it is usually only aggressive and anti-union managements who choose any of the other options listed below. 
  1. Accept part performance of your duties and reduce your pay proportionally. In order to do this, the employer must make an estimate of how long you would usually spend doing the work that is the subject of the ban on a day, and then give you notice (at least the day before) that they intend to make such a deduction. The notice has strict requirements about what needs to be included in order to be lawful. If you think you’ve received such a notice, let the union know as soon as possible.  
  1. Refuse to accept any work from you at all until you are willing to stop the partial ban and perform all of your duties. In this circumstance, the University does not need to pay you until you are willing to do all of your duties again. Again, there are strict notice requirements. If you believe you have received a notice like this, you should get in touch with the Union.  
  1. Lock out employees. Unlike the above scenario, when an employer chooses to lock out employees it doesn’t have to limit it to those employees engaging in the industrial action, and it doesn’t have to let them come back to work if they agree not to participate in the industrial action anymore. 

I received an email saying that if I participated in the partial work bans, my pay would be reduced proportionately in accordance with the Regulations 

This email is wrong, and the University has refused to correct it. We view this as a breach of good faith bargaining and have applied to the Fair Work Commission for an order that they remedy this breach.  

3) What about the ban on teaching?

  • We are running a teaching ban from May 8 to May 12 inclusive. Please check your inbox for more information.

4) What about all the other actions the NTEU had approved in the PABO?

  • Other actions are available to us. These are those that were approved by the Fair Work Commission under the PABO and include actions like withholding student assessment results. During Friday’s stop-work we will discuss whether or not we want to take these actions, too.

5) Do I have to participate in any or all of these actions?

  • We encourage members to participate but it is completely your choice if you wish to take part in one or more of these. However the Branch believes that it is necessary that as many people participate in the actions as possible. It’s the only way for us to show management how strong the voice of the Union is, and that we won’t accept worse outcomes than what has been achieved by our colleagues across the sector.

6) Do I have to tell management in advance if I am going to take protected action?

  • No, there is no need to. It would be illegal for the employer to threaten or disadvantage you for not advising them in advance. If you are pressed, the best thing to say is “please contact my Union.” You could also tell management that you haven’t decided yet, and will likely only decide just prior to the action taking place, unless you are actively involved in the planning of that protected industrial action. If management tells you that you must tell them whether you intend to take protected industrial action, this is a breach of the law. You should report it to the Union immediately.

7) Do I need to tell management after I take protected action?

  • If you are asked directly whether you have taken protected industrial action or are presently imposing a ban, you should answer the question honestly and accurately.

8) What is a ‘stop work’?

  • A ‘stop work is’ when we stop all work. It can be contrasted with a ‘partial ban’ which is a ban or limitation on specific aspects of our work, like teaching. Whenever we do this, we will gather together and use this time to pursue our current goal: A NO vote on the proposed ‘agreement’. You can stop work without joining our gathering but we encourage you to come and experience the solidarity and contribute to the activism.

9) Can non-members engage in protected industrial action?

  • Non members should not participate in industrial action and we are not encouraging them to do so – they are not protected from discipline. If you have colleagues who wish to take part, please warmly invite them to join NTEU! As members, their participation will be protected.

10) Will my pay be deducted?

  • Stoppages of work will mean deductions from pay. Partial bans (e.g. to some activities, like teaching) mean the University can choose to refuse to accept work from you while you engage in protected industrial action (and then deduct pay) or make proportionate deductions based on how long they think you would be doing the particular activity on a given day. For them to do this, there are strict notice requirements and the Union may be able to challenge them on it. Please let us know if you are contacted about having your pay deducted. It is never the case that the University is obliged to deduct pay for a partial work ban. Most universities continue to pay in full in these circumstances, and the Union views choosing to refuse to accept work or deduct pay as the actions of an aggressive and anti-union management.

11) Is there financial support available if I can’t afford to take the financial hit, but want to stop work?

  • NTEU Deakin Branch is working on setting up a Fight Fund. Members (and anyone!) will be invited to donate if they can, and this will be distributed to those who wish to engage in action but cannot afford a pay deduction. Workers should note, though, that this is, unfortunately, unlikely to cover the entire cost of a stop work.

12) What does it mean to be able to ‘make statements’?

  • The ‘making statements’ action means that you can take up work time talking about the Union’s enterprise bargaining aims and goals, and your manager can’t tell you to stop. For example, if you are a professional staff member, you might spend 10 minutes in a meeting talking about Deakin’s dodgy deal, or spend 3 minutes including a message about the dodgy deal in an email that you are sending. If you are an academic staff member, you might give a 10 minute presentation to students about the dodgy deal, and/or what the NTEU would like to see in a real offer to staff. Doing this is not misconduct, and it would be illegal for your manager to tell you to stop.

13) How is the timing of the protected industrial action chosen?

  • Deakin are rushing the vote on the ‘Agreement’. Voting opens on Monday. We were required to give the University three days notice of any action. This left us with only Friday to gather together and do the work of talking to colleagues, which is why the stop work was set for Friday. The other actions are timed to align with the week in which the vote is open to draw attention to our ‘vote no’ campaign.

14) What should I do if I am on leave?

  • If a member is on paid leave and they want to go on strike, they would need to formally cancel their leave for the relevant period and notify their line manager that they are on strike.

15) Do you have something I can use to communicate to my students why their learning is being affected?

  • Yes! You might write:

Dear students,

To uphold the integrity of our university’s teaching and research, Deakin University staff members have voted to take stop-work action today from 9am-1pm. This [insert what it will mean for the students…]

We are stopping work to protest the proposed wages and conditions that university management are offering us. They have ignored our requests for more job security for casual staff, less workload pressures so we can deliver you high-quality teaching, protection of academic freedom and better conditions for professional staff.

We appreciate how disruptive this is for your learning and we do not take this action lightly. We strongly feel this action will help us give you a better student experience at Deakin. You may have seen students join staff at other university protests around the country this year and we would love your support as these issues impact your education too.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns or shows of solidarity!

16) What is our goal here?

We are currently trying to get managment back to negotating for a new enterpirse agreement with the NTEU.

If we can get them back to the bargaining table, we can negotiate for a better deal on pay, workloads, job security and work from home rights, among other things.

If Deakin managment agrees to return to the table, we will call of the teaching ban.

For more about how bad the deal is, see our website.

Do I need to find alternative cover for work duties if I am advised by a member of my team that they intend to, or are taking part in protected industrial action?

There are a few answers to this question. If a member has advised that they will not be performing a duty, and it is your responsibility to replace that member, then you are required to do so. However, staff members are not obligated to inform their managers before undertaking industrial action. Therefore, if you have not been explicitly advised, you do not need to find replacements for staff members, and if a staff member informs you of their intention to participate unprompted, you should feel free to remind them that they do not need to make up their mind until the beginning of the industrial action. Further, you should avoid a potential breach of the Fair Work Act by suggesting that a staff member might be required to inform you of their intention to participate in industrial action in the future. We strongly encourage staff members not to inform their supervisors before taking industrial action.

In Unity

Deakin NTEU Branch