University of Sydney responds to recent Honi Soit article

7 November 2022
Opportunity for comment was not provided
The University was not approached for comment ahead of publication, and our request for corrections and the inclusion of our position has not been forthcoming.

A recent article by Luke Ottavi published by student newspaper Honi Soit falsely conflates union activity at two separate organisations, includes inaccurate information and fails to provide the University a right of reply – in breach of journalistic ethics.

Last week we informed the Honi Soit editors that we would publish our statement online if they declined to correct their story and include something of our position.

As this has not happened, our full statement that was provided to Honi Soit is below.

University of Sydney statement

“We have always supported the right of our staff to engage in lawful industrial action and we want to resolve the negotiations peacefully and respectfully. We have some of the highest wages and best conditions of any university in Australia – we want to pay our staff more, we want to make it a better place to work and a place that works better. As soon as we reach an agreement, we can begin that process.

“Acting in good faith and recognising the valuable contribution of our staff, the University has already made a number of payments to staff including a $2,000 recognition reward in December 2021 and a further $1,000 plus a 2.1% increase this year. These payments were made outside of enterprise agreement requirements.

“Since negotiations began, we have engaged with the extensive logs of claim put forward by staff unions. We have come to in-principle agreement in a number of important areas, including improved flexible working clauses, enhanced professional staff workload clauses, provisions to provide better support for and recognition of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues and enhanced leave provisions.

“As we’ve consistently maintained, agreement will only be reached through constructive discussions at the bargaining table, as has been the case for all the matters that have been finalised so far. 

“We remain grateful for the enormous contribution our Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson AC, has made to our University since she was elected to the role. It is a role she has carried out without any remuneration since being elected in 2013. 

“The Chancellor is deeply respected and has a number of charitable, not-for-profit and other organisations that she supports. One of her roles is as the Thales Australia Board Chair to Thales Australia, a civil and defence contractor, which supplies defence material to the Australian Defence Forces, including recent exports of Bushmaster vehicles to the Ukraine.

“The Chancellor and the Senate have no role in negotiating the enterprise agreement with staff. To clarify, the Chancellor is elected by the Fellows to chair the Senate and has no independent authority. The Senate has full authority for the affairs of the University but in accordance with proper governance the Senate delegates authority to the Vice-Chancellor who manages the affairs of the University, including industrial and human relations functions. This is enshrined in a formal written instrument of delegation. The Senate’s role is to review and approve University policy and strategy, and to review the recommendations and performance of the University Executive.

“We are extremely proud of the diversity of our alumni who are distinguished leaders in our community across a range of industry, sectors and all sides of politics.”