|Issue No 106||10 August 2001|
Victory for Academic Freedom
By Sarah Roberts
In an important decision handed down on 8 August in the Federal Court, Justice Branson found that the National Tertiary Education Union's Agreement with the University of Wollongong prohibits the dismissal of an academic staff member without due process.
Clause 61 of the University's Enterprise Agreement requires that before an academic can be dismissed he/she is entitled to a hearing before a Committee where he/she can respond to charges of misconduct or unsatisfactory performance.
In January this year the University dismissed Dr Ted Steele, an Associate Professor, without following those procedures.
Dr Steele was dismissed after he refused to withdraw statements reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that he had been instructed to alter students' marks.
In finding in favour of the Union's interpretation of the Agreement, Her Honour said:
"I conclude that subcl 59.2 of the Agreement does not authorise the termination of an employee whose employment is subject to the Agreement without the Vice-Chancellor taking the steps in cl 61 of the Agreement."
The Union's victory is an important victory for Australian academic staff and for the public interest: without the protection from arbitrary dismissal enshrined in Enterprise Agreements, staff would be fearful to express unpopular or controversial views. Without these protections, the very idea of a University as 'critic and conscience' of society is undermined.
The unfortunate part of this case is that it has been the Union which has had to establish this principle against the opposition of the University management.
University of Wollongong NTEU Branch President Ron Perrin called on Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Gerard Sutton to consider his position carefully, following the decision.
"The Vice-Chancellor has, by his arbitrary actions in breach of our Agreement, brought the University into disrepute," he said.
Her Honour has not yet made any formal orders in relation to breaches, penalty or compensation, allowing the parties five days in which to either reach agreement or apply further to the Court.
The decision is available on the NTEU website by following the links from http://www.nteu.org.au.
Interview: In Exile
Burmese's government in exile's Minister for Justice U Thein Oo talks about a struggle for democracy that has become a test of international solidarity.
Politics: A National Disgrace
Labor's IR spokesman Arch Bevis gives his take on the workers entitlements issue and its mismanagement by the Howard Government.
E-Change: 2.2 The Information Organisation
Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel look at how network technologies will change the way organizations operate in the Information Age.
Media: The Fine Print
Mark Hebblewhite looks at how the major dailies handled the Tri-Star dispute and finds that the story really does depend on the telling.
Human Rights: A People Besieged
Labor MLC Janelle Saffin, an active supporter of the pro-Democracy movement in Burma, sets out the issues behind the ILO sanctions.
International: Postcard From Brazil
The CFMEU’s Phil Davey reports on a rural movement that puts our National Farmers Federation to shame.
History: Indonesia Calling
They needed no resolutions. Soldiers and workers who did not know one another moved together, the black ban started to reach out across the harbour from the noisy, smoke-filled room.
Solidarity: On the Frontline
Australian trade unionists are providing practical help for the Burmese through projects funded by APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad.
Satire: Skase 'Too Ill' to Fly Home for Burial
Spanish authorities have deemed Christopher Skase too ill to return to Australia for his own funeral.
Review: Living Silence
In these extracts from her new book, Christina Fink goes inside Burma to find a world where military repression is slowly crushing a people.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005