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EXCLUSIVE: RMIT to re-enter University Agreement bargaining following Lygon Street protest

Updated: May 4, 2023

The Swanston Gazette can reveal that change is coming after Wednesday's staff & student protest in Bowen Street

A protest today led to RMIT University re-entering negotiations regarding their trade agreement (Photo: Grace Frost)

An RMIT spokesperson has told the Swanston Gazette that the university was preparing to commence bargaining for an updated enterprise agreement shortly after a staff protest on Wednesday afternoon.

“RMIT is preparing to commence bargaining for our University Agreement shortly. We will share an update with our staff in the coming weeks,” they said.

"We will continue to regularly engage with all staff throughout the process."

The Vice-Chancellor and President Alec Cameron was not available to provide comment.

The response follows RMIT university staff members gathering today to protest for increased job security, fairer employment opportunities and remuneration they consider more reflective of their workload.

The protestors from RMIT joined in Bowen St before marching to Lygon St (Video: Grace Frost)

The protest began in RMIT’s Bowen Street before 200 of the university staff joined with an estimated 600 additional employees from surrounding universities at the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

Victoria Police shut three lanes of Lygon Street to cater for the crowd.

National Tertiary Education Union member Liam Ward was first to address the expanding crowd, encouraging them to be vocal during the protest.

"We’ve been going backwards for two years. It has to end," he told the crowd.

"There is not a corner of this institution that is not suffering."

Mr Ward said staff had gathered to send a ‘loud and clear’ message to RMIT executives that they would continue to fight for a decent pay rise, manageable workloads and job security.

“A real pay rise means over inflation, a payrise that will actually mean we can pay our rent, pay our mortgage and live,” he said.

“We don’t want unpaid overtime - no more rubbish. We want accurate, doable workloads.

“We want job security, for the long term casuals and long term staff who get stuffed around and screwed over by RMIT year after year.”

The event came in light of a National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) plea for RMIT - and more specifically, Vice-Chancellor Cameron - to begin bargaining for the new enterprise agreement.

National Tertiary Education Union member Liam Ward on the protest today (Video: Grace Frost)

RMIT’s previous Enterprise Agreement (2018) had a nominal expiry date of 30 June, 2021 - over 670 days ago - and bargaining for an updated agreement has yet to commence.

RMIT has, however, begun the formal bargaining process for a new RMIT Vocational Education Enterprise Agreement (2023) to replace the prior VE agreement (2019), which expired on January 31, 2022.

All entitlements, benefits and protections outlined in the last enterprise agreement will remain in place until new agreements are recognised.

Protestors said RMIT employees have been under immense pressure from the university to deliver unpaid labor at high rates, while also experiencing job insecurity and static wages that weren’t reflective of current inflation rates.

RMIT staff protesting working conditions joined with roughly 600 other protestors outside of Victoria's Union Trade Hall after a short march (Photo: Grace Frost)

RMIT lecturer and protest attendee Sebastian Diaz-Gasca said university executives had used the COVID pandemic and related lockdowns ‘as a shield’ to postpone agreement bargaining.

“The university has recorded a lot of profits, executives are getting pay rises and none of the professional staff members receive anything in comparison,” he said.

“Wages have been stagnant for ages, work loads are crazy and overall RMIT doesn’t want to come to the table and bargain.”

Mr Diaz-Gasca said academic staff - whose role involves both research and teaching - have additionally been given ‘crazy hurdles to jump’ to receive increased research allocation.

“Academics have been given like 20 per cent research allocations, which is nothing,” he said.

“We’re still being given very little research allocation and very little time to do it.

“[Academics] are also expected to pump out papers and go to conferences, using our own money, not given anything for it, [even though] it’s within our [key performance indicators].”

Not all RMIT staff, however, considered themselves hard-done-by.

RMIT communications business partner Nick Adams, said he considered his working conditions ‘quite good’, but added it was still important to attend the event in support of his colleagues.

“Seeing the way that academic staff are treated in terms of work loads and things like that, I feel like it's important to stand with them at this stage,” he said.

“[The protest] confirms how important it is that we take care of our academic staff who are really the backbone of the university.”

The Victorian Police shut down three lanes of traffic on Lyon St to facilitate the crowd (Photo: Grace Frost)


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