New CQU agreement signed

QTU TAFE Executive has reluctantly agreed to sign a new Central Queensland University certified agreement.

Following the conclusion of negotiations for the agreement, both CQU and the AEU(Q)/QTU have conducted ballots. The university put the single agreement to a ballot without resolving two final threshold matters with the AEU(Q)/QTU, refusing a separate agreement for VET educators and requiring an increase in contact hours to 22 hours per week.

The employer ballot returned a positive response to acceptance of the single draft agreement, which includes academics, professional staff and now, vocational educators. Of 3,306 eligible employees, 1,243 voted with only 82 returning a no vote.

In contrast, the AEU(Q)/QTU ballot of members returned a 64 per cent no vote.

Following the returns, it was clear that CQU would proceed with the agreement and that the National Tertiary Education Union was eager to sign. The question then arose whether AEU(Q)/QTU should refuse to sign the proposed agreement. This decision needed to be made by the TAFE Executive, and the question of whether to be a party to an agreement that would be binding on membership regardless of their rejection of it was not asked or answered lightly. A number of considerations were weighed in the process of making the decision.

The AEU(Q)/QTU did not want to contribute to a diminution/erosion effect on conditions in relation to TAFE Queensland, and a majority of CQU AEU(Q)/QTU members voting had rejected the draft agreement through the ballot. Additionally, it was and is a matter of principle that given our members' rejection of the proposal, the Union should adhere to the decision, particularly given that the employer had taken the matter to ballot without having resolved two threshold matters in negotiations.

On the other hand, there were a number of ramifications for the AEU(Q)/QTU and its members if the Union did not sign the agreement.

Given the significant vote in favour of the agreement in the employer’s ballot, CQU will proceed to having the agreement certified in Fair Work.

Having sought advice, there was no compelling reason identified that would be likely to result in Fair Work determining to not register the agreement. Consideration was given to the AEUQ/QTU seeking to stop the registration of the agreement by arguing that it does not meet the “better off over all” test (BOOT). However, if the Union had proceeded with this approach, it would have had to argue that the CQU VET educators and all other employees were disadvantaged by the agreement. This is not a case that was likely to be successful, given the conversion of two weeks of non-attendance time to rec leave, 2.5 per cent salary adjustment for VET educators in excess of other employees, and other conditions remaining similar. Such a case would only result in hindering the payment of salary increases to members and other employees.

Additionally, given the compelling support for the agreement in the employer ballot, CQU was within its rights to establish a single agreement regardless of the opposition to such arrangements from both or either the AEU(Q)/QTU and Together Union, given employees had been afforded the opportunity to vote in the employer ballot.

As a consequence, if the QTU chose not to sign the agreement, the following would occur.

  • Not being party to the agreement, the AEU(Q)/QTU could be blocked from any agreement implementation consultation, including being denied membership of the joint consultative committee.
  • It is likely that the Union would need to re-establish the AEU(Q)/QTU as a bargaining representative in the next round of negotiations.

While the QTU had a principled position not to sign the agreement, in weighing the key issues, TAFE Executive reluctantly determined it was in members’ interests to proceed with signing.

David Terauds                                                                                                                      TAFE Organiser

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 8, 3 November 2017, p21