Staff at Deakin University are still waiting on a promised pay rise, amid accusations that the vice-chancellor is trying to “bully” them.

Negotiations between university management and the National Tertiary Education Union over the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement have stalled at the Victorian institution. As Crikey reported last month, students are angry about the move to a new trimester teaching schedule, while staff have raised concerns about the impact on important research projects.

Last year, the two parties agreed to an interim Heads of Agreement, which specified a schedule of small pay rises while establishing workloads, conditions for casuals and superannuation. While a number of these rises have been implemented, the most recently scheduled one has not.

“The Vice-Chancellor decided not to pay because we still don’t have agreement,” said National Tertiary Education Union Deakin branch president Dr Colin Long. “She’s unilaterally torn up the Heads of Agreement and is trying to bully staff and the union by holding up the pay rise.”

That’s not the view of university management. Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Walker was unavailable when contacted by Crikey, but her spokesperson painted a different picture.

“The university signed an agreement with the NTEU some time ago which sets out a schedule of salary increases,” Media Coordinator Sandra Kingston told Crikey. “The agreement says that it will take effect only when an enterprise agreement comes into operation. As agreement has not been reached on a small number of clauses in the enterprise agreement, the salary increase is not yet payable.”

“The university continues to negotiate in good faith with the NTEU to resolve the small number of differences so the enterprise agreement can be finalised. When the enterprise agreement comes into operation, the salary increases will be paid.”

Dr Long insists the pay rises are specifically mentioned in the Heads of Agreement: “I would dispute that entirely.”

Pay increases scheduled for April 23 and August 30 2009 were paid, even though no enterprise agreement had been signed at that stage either, he said. “I don’t know why they paid that one and not this one then, other than it’s an attempt to bully the union,” he added.

An email circulated by the Deakin NTEU branch to its members and obtained by Crikey listed some of the outstanding issues. With the subject line “NOT HAPPY SALLY!!!”, it said that redundancies were an issue and that it was “not uncommon” for general staff to be forced to apply for their own jobs after restructures. It also said that the NTEU wishes to reduce the numbers of casual staff and create more continuing positions.

Central to the dispute over the EBA, however, is the contested definition of research activity. “The Vice-Chancellor wants to introduce a definition that, in our view, would be seriously detrimental to Deakin’s status as a research institution,” said Dr Long.

Journals and other places that academics can publish are ranked in terms of quality by the federal government initiative, Excellence in Research Australia (ERA). They are given a rating of A*, A, B or C.

“Anything the ERA counts as valid research should be counted by Deakin, but the Vice-Chancellor wants to exclude some things that the ERA counts,” he said, citing research in C-ranked journals and conferences as two examples.

“In some disciplines, such as information systems, conferences are very important because so much is changing in those disciplines,” he added. “If you wait for journals to come out, things have advanced too far.”

“That will affect people’s jobs and careers,” he told Crikey. “If you get identified as not being research active under the Vice-Chancellor’s definition, you are identified to teach over the summer period, when normally you would be conducting research and submitting grants. You’d gradually just become a teacher.”

He emphasised the link between up-to-date research and teaching. “If there are a lot of staff not being allowed to do any research that will affect their teaching and affect the experience of students,” he said.