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Late penalties banned as UniMelb NTEU begins industrial action

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has today taken the first steps in a campaign of protected industrial action against the University of Melbourne, initiating a ban on members applying late submission penalties to their students’ work.


The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has today taken the first steps in a campaign of protected industrial action against the University of Melbourne, initiating a ban on members applying late submission penalties to their students’ work.

The ban on late penalties will be accompanied by members of the NTEU, which represents staff across the higher education and university sectors, sending messages to their students explaining why they are taking industrial action.

NTEU branch members approved both methods of industrial action in a Protected Action Ballot Order (PABO) vote during late March, along with six other potential actions, including bans on conducting assessments, responding to emails outside of work hours, and the use of the University’s online systems such as Canvas. Work stoppages and strike action were also approved in the ballot. A PABO with at least 50% membership endorsement is necessary for legal industrial action to take place.

The industrial action aims to push the University to accept the NTEU’s proposed changes to their Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), the legal document that determines the working conditions and compensation of staff. The NTEU are calling for a commitment to 80% secure jobs, a 15% pay rise, manageable workloads, improved parental leave, restrictions on “spill and fill” workforce restructurings, and stronger work-from-home rights.

The proposed changes arose from a survey of over 2000 University staff and were approved by 450 NTEU members to form the log of claims that was served to the University in August of last year as part of the enterprise bargaining process.

These claims were not addressed by the draft EBA that University management proposed in November.

Following a meeting between the NTEU and University management on Tuesday 4 April, the NTEU took a unanimous vote on fast-tracking the first stages of industrial action over concerns that University management was not taking job security seriously.

In a public release to their members, the NTEU explained that the late penalty ban “intends to build solidarity with students”.

“If later in the semester we choose to take further industrial action -- e.g. striking or withholding marks -- the university may pit staff against students, claiming that we are acting against the interests of our students. Not deducting late penalties raises awareness with students about what our claims are and why we are taking industrial action.”

This ban forms part of a broader campaign to build solidarity between staff and students at the University that has been led by the NTEU and student representatives from the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU).

UMSU Education (Public Affairs) Officer Carlos Lagos said that student solidarity with the NTEU’s actions is crucial because “it demonstrates a unified front in support of fair working conditions and equitable treatment for educators.” 

“When students stand with educators, it sends a powerful message to decision-makers that education is a priority and should not be compromised. We need to recognize that good working conditions for educators are not only essential for their well-being and job satisfaction, but also directly impact the quality of education students receive.”

In an email to students earlier today, Russell Goulbourne, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, responded by warning students that the ban will not necessarily be enforced by all staff.

 “It’s important to note that not all staff members will participate in the industrial action, so you should not assume that you can submit assessments late without penalty for any of your subjects.”

Goulbourne said that the University “respects the rights of those individuals who choose to participate in the industrial action, which is protected by law,” and encouraged students to contact their subject coordinators for questions about the impact on specific assignments.




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