LA TROBE University union members have voted to reject a framework designed to protect university jobs.
The National Tertiary Education Union agreed to the Jobs Protection Framework with the Australian university sector earlier this month.
The framework was put to about 250 La Trobe NTEU members at a branch meeting on Wednesday.
NTEU Victorian Division assistant secretary Sarah Roberts said the motion to carry the framework was "narrowly defeated".
Another motion rejecting the framework was supported by the majority of members at the meeting.
Ms Roberts said the NTEU would now take the framework to all union members at La Trobe for a ballot vote.
She said it would allow those who didn't attend the meeting to have their say.
"Normally we don't have this additional process," Ms Roberts said. "But that was the national approach. The feeling is we shouldn't deprive people of a ballot."
The La Trobe vote came after the NTEU announced it would scrap the agreement at a national level after 17 universities voted against the framework.
La Trobe Bendigo lecturer Kathleen Pleasants said she and many other union members were concerned about how the NTEU had conducted itself.
Ms Pleasants raised concerns earlier this week that staff had been prevented from having an open debate about the framework with the union.
"I have to wonder if the union has shot itself in the foot by alienating members on the ground because of the way they went about it," Ms Pleasants said
"They have annoyed the rank and file. I wonder if people are not voting for or against the framework. Instead it could be a sign of their confidence in the union."
NTEU national president Alison Barnes said the framework could save about 12,000 jobs nationally.
The framework would mean some staff members would take pay cuts for one year, and redundancies would only happen in cases where a university could explicitly prove there was no work.
La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John Dewar already flagged there could be voluntary redundancies and up to 800 jobs cuts at his university, as the institution was facing a multi-million dollar shortfall in the next two years.
Mr Dewar helped negotiate the Jobs Protection Framework with the NTEU. He told staff in an email earlier this month that the framework could save jobs at the university.
But Ms Pleasants said she was concerned about the scheme.
"At the moment, I'm not convinced the framework offers any better than our current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement," she said.
"The union is positioning the framework as something that will guarantee jobs. But I think there is a lot of fuzzy language in the framework that doesn't give the guarantees the union says it does."
Ms Roberts said there was "misinformation" around the framework.
"The main misconception seems to be the idea that universities across the country have plenty of other options to pursue other than cutting staff costs," she said. "We might agree that this is true looking objectively.
"But the thing is, without a binding agreement for the universities to look at other options like getting a loan or liquidating assets, it is much easier for them to go to staff and cut costs.
"There is a level of trust from staff that management will do the right thing. Personally, I don't share that trust.
"They won't go to other measures unless there's a binding contract. But in the end, it's up to the members."
Ms Roberts said the NTEU would continue to support university staff and its members.
"We're in a dog fight to save jobs," she said. "That hasn't changed. I'm sure all members agree with that. There's just the debate around the strategy of how to do that."
LA TROBE staff members could still benefit from a framework designed to protect jobs in the university sector, despite the union scrapping the scheme at a national level.
The National Tertiary Education Union had agreed to the Jobs Protection Framework with the Australian university sector earlier this month.
NTEU national president Alison Barnes on Tuesday announced the union would scrap the agreement after 17 universities voted against the framework.
"The worst crisis in the history of Australian universities demanded a collective solution to save careers and livelihoods," Dr Barnes said in a statement.
"Too many vice chancellors are now baulking at the strong oversight provisions in the jobs framework that guarantee transparency and ensure that any contribution our members make will be dedicated to saving jobs.
"Vice chancellors appear to have abandoned their industrial association, and demonstrated they are allergic to scrutiny. They are showing reckless disregard for their workforce."
But NTEU Victorian Division assistant secretary Sarah Roberts said La Trobe staff, who were due to vote on the framework on Wednesday, could still benefit from the agreement.
"Nationally, it's dead," Ms Roberts said. "But at places where vice chancellors are supportive of it, we still think it's a good deal that could save people's jobs.
"We still want to provide that opportunity to save jobs. The plan is for every member to have a vote."
La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John Dewar flagged there could be voluntary redundancies and job cuts at his university, as the institution was facing a shortfall of between $33 million and $63 million in 2020, and between $80 million and $115 million in 2021.
He said that was the financial equivalent of between 200 and 800 jobs in the next two years.
The NTEU said the framework would mean some staff members would take pay cuts for one year, and redundancies would only happen in cases where a university could explicitly prove there was no work.
Dr Barnes said it could help save about 12,000 jobs across the country.
Some La Trobe staff have been opposed to the framework, saying it would severely compromise work hours and pay for many.
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