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Curtin Vice-Chancellor criticises strike action

Media release

C298/09

Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeanette Hacket has criticised union decisions to strike next week despite a new offer of salaries and conditions being made by the University on Monday.

Union members have voted to stop work next Wednesday at Curtin and Murdoch Universities.

The salary offer made by Curtin on Monday includes salary increases of up to 18 per cent since the end of the last agreement, a $1000 payment to each full-time staff member covered by the new agreements once they are accepted, and a proposed model to manage academic workload. Part-time staff will receive the payment proportionate to hours worked.

“These are very competitive salary offers and keep Curtin in the top third in terms of pay and conditions in the sector,” said Professor Hacket.

“Importantly, they also reflect our commitment to providing continued employment for our staff as we make every effort to avoid the large staff cuts that have occurred at some other universities.”

Professor Hacket said Curtin did not know how many staff would strike and asked that anyone planning to do so advise the University so the disruption to students could be minimised.

“We regret that students are being used as bargaining chips by the unions in this dispute with management, and apologise to our students for any inconvenience they may experience.”

Professor Hacket said she hoped the impact on students would be minimal, as only around 13 per cent of academics and 10 per cent of general staff were union members, and she believed not all of them would strike.

“I know the majority of Curtin staff have a strong commitment to our students.”

Professor Hacket also responded to criticism of Curtin’s corporate management style by the National Tertiary Education Union. 

“While our core responsibility is teaching and learning, and research, we are required to manage in the most effective manner possible to ensure quality of programs and financial security for our staff.

“Only about 30 per cent of our income now comes from government, and much of that is tied to specific projects for which we are accountable.

“We are also facing rising costs for essentials such as utilities and services, and need to spend significant amounts on customer service and recruitment activities, as universities operate in an increasingly competitive environment.”

Professor Hacket said Curtin had weathered the global financial crisis better than many other Australian universities, in part because of the approach taken to financial management by Council and the senior executive, and also through the contribution and commitment of the staff.

Contact: Ann Paterson, Director Corporate Communications, 08 9266 2792, 0401 103 590, a.paterson@curtin.edu.au