the Australian

  • December 17, 1997

    Breakaway trio to make award submissions

  • by GUY HEALY

    THREE West Australian universities will present independant submissions to the Industrial Relations Commission to reinforce their status as autonomous institutions following the commission's re-examination of its powers.

    The IRC last week granted leave to the three to intervene in the landmark non-continuing award case in which all 36 universities -- inclduing the West Australian trio -- were represented by peak university employer body the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association.

    The AHEIA had challenged the IRC's ability to make a new award for casual and contract staff by asserting universities were agencies of the States and beyond its jurisdictional powers.

    Although the AHEIA then withdrew its agencies argument, the IRC decided it had to settle the jurisdictional issue and allowed the trio to present their case for autonomy.

    The three universities opposed the AHEIA move -- aimed at thwarting IRC regulation of casual and contract employment -- fearing it may lead to greater State intervention in their affairs and weaken their autonomy.

    The IRC will rule next year on whether the 40 per cent of casual and fixed-term jobs in universities should be regulated by a new award.

    The three universities are the University of Western Australia, Curtin University of Technology and Edith Cowan University.

    The IRC had suggested in a recent direction that if the AHEIA were correct and the IRC had no constitutional power to make an award for a State agency such as proposed, it could leave job regulation to State tribunals.

    UWA, for example, has been stung by a West Australian parliamentary committee of inquiry into the so-called Rindos affair using its jurisdiction over the university to intervene in an internal staffing matter.

    However, UWA deputy vice-chancellor Alan Robson denied UWA's position was related to the Rindos affair, claiming it predated State government intervention in the issue.

    Intervening universities were to make submissions to the IRC by December 23.

    The IRC is expected to release its result in February or March.

    Back to the Press 1997 Menu