top of page

All about bargaining 

Enterprise bargaining is a time when union members have a particularly high level of power. Bargaining is also often filled with jargon and complex rules, so this page is here to help demystify the process.

Our FAQs cover enterprise bargaining and industrial action.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the information covered here - or have a question that isn't, please contact your Branch office.
Want to know more? Hop over to the National NTEU FAQ Library

  • What is bargaining?
    Bargaining is a system whereby unions and their members negotiate on behalf of all employees to establish legally enforceable rights and entitlements, including salaries, paid leave such as parental leave, redundancy pay, limits on workloads, and hundreds of other entitlements. Most of your rights and working conditions are set and protected by these union-negotiated Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs). Contracts of employment generally don’t include any rights for workers, and university policies can be changed without notice. By law we are only allowed to negotiate employer by employer – for now we can’t negotiate on an industry level.
  • Log of Claims: who decides what goes in it?
    Members decide what we claim for, i.e. our Log of Claims (LoC) – through two processes: The NTEU's National Council, which consists of elected delegates from all branches, determines the overall bargaining strategy by identifying the common issues that widely affect members nationally. Members at each NTEU branch decide on the local claims to be pursued with their employers, alongside the claims which form part of the national strategy. Most nationally shared claims are qualitative rather than quantitative, so members shape what the national claims look like in practice locally. NTEU members develop Branch LoCs over a period of time and it is then taken to an all members' meeting for review. Once members are satisfied, the LoC is put up for endorsement and it is that Log of Claims that is presented to management as an initial document of the intention of the members.
  • Getting to the final Agreement
    Negotiating always involves give and take, with the employer making concessions and the union having to compromise on some of its claims. Your Branch Bargaining team will communicate regularly with members and seek frequent input and contribution to arguments at the table and responses to management proposals. Keep in mind that if you are not yet a union member you cannot participate in determining what is accepted, so join now. When the bargaining team thinks they have a draft agreement which can be put to members for full endorsement, this is first checked by the NTEU’s National Executive to ensure nothing in the proposed Agreement could compromise or undermine agreements at other branches. Once approved by National Executive, the Agreement is then put to branch members for endorsement at a general meeting. Once the Agreement has been endorsed by NTEU members, it will then be put to a formal vote of all staff. If the vote is successful, the Agreement proceeds for final checking and ratification by the Fair Work Commission before it becomes legally binding.
  • How do I stay involved in this process?
    We believe the best way to stay involved and in touch is as a union member - you will receive regular updates and be invited to all-member meetings where decisions are made about the process, inclusions and exclusions in the Branch Log of Claims. As a union member, should it come to it, you will be protected if your branch membership decides to take any form of protected industrial action; if you aren't a member, you cannot participate without putting yourself at risk. But if you cannot become a member for some reason, there are still many ways to participate: Participate in union actions – come to sundowners, meetings, workshops, protests, and make suggestions for events you think would be effective, too! Be a visible supporter – put up posters, wear a badge or sticker. You can also request printed materials and other merch from your Branch office. Talk to your friends about bargaining and why they need to join. Join a bargaining reference group or the campaign committee Sign up to be a volunteer. We do understand that circumstances arise where union membership seems out of reach or unaffordable. If that's the case, please contact your Branch Organiser who will be happy to show how union membership is worth investing in - it's tax deductible and in this climate, more important that ever to have a workplace safety net. Convinced? Join here!
  • What is industrial action and what can it involve?
    Industrial action refers to a variety of activities, most commonly strikes (refusal to attend or perform work) or work bans (refusal to perform all normal duties), which are taken to support or advance claims during enterprise bargaining. In higher education, such activities could include strikes, stop work meetings and various work bans.
  • What is protected industrial action?
    Protected industrial action is industrial action that has been approved by a ballot of NTEU members in accordance with the requirements of the Fair Work Act, and has been taken within thirty days of that approval. Protected means that you are protected from legal liability for taking the action, and management cannot take action against you in response to you taking industrial action. There are exceptions if the action involves or is likely to involve personal injury or damage to or taking of property. There are significant penalties for employers who adversely treat workers taking protected industrial action, including by becoming a member of the NTEU.
  • Who can take industrial action?
    Anyone who is a member of the relevant branch of the NTEU and is employed by the affected university, can take protected industrial action.
  • What if I didn’t vote in the ballot? Can I still take action?
    Any NTEU member of the relevant branch, whether they voted or not, whether they voted yes or not, or even if they joined NTEU after the vote was held can participate in protected industrial action. Members of other branches cannot take industrial action in solidarity without risk of repercussions. Non-members CANNOT take industrial action without risk of repercussions. If you have been thinking about joining your union, now is the time in order to show solidarity and support of members at your institution:
  • When and why should we take industrial action?
    Sometimes we have to take industrial action because our employer is refusing to reach an agreement with the Union. Employers are by law allowed to do this. Employees have no way of requiring the employer to reach a new agreement, and there is no right in Australia to have disputes arbitrated by an umpire. Industrial action and the prospect of it is the difference between collective bargaining and collective begging. Should we feel industrial action is necessary, we first have to conduct a Protected Action Ballot (PAB).
  • Can I take any kind of action I want?
    No. The action must be one of the actions approved by the ballot, and management must have been notified in writing by NTEU that the action will be commencing. Check with your branch office to see what industrial action has been notified and for when. If you and your colleagues want to take any of the actions that haven’t been notified university-wide – please get in touch with us and we can notify the action for you and your colleagues (we will need at least 4 days’ notice).
  • Who notifies management that we are taking action?
    NTEU officials will notify management three clear working days prior to any action commencing.
  • Do I need to let my supervisor know I will be taking action before I take it?
    No, there is no need. If you supervisor asks you if you intend to take action, you may decline to answer. If pressed, the best thing to say is “please contact my Union”. You could also tell management that you haven’t decided yet, and will likely only decide just prior to the action taking place, unless you are actively involved in the planning of that industrial action. If an email is sent out asking people to say whether they will take action, you may choose not to inform management that you are taking action. It would be illegal for an employer to threaten or disadvantage you for not advising them in advance or requiring you to tell them of your intentions to take industrial action.
  • Do I need to report to management after I have participated in industrial action?
    If you are asked directly whether you have taken industrial action, or are presently taking industrial action, you should answer the question honestly and accurately. If you take strike action, or if you apply a ban that results in you working less than your ordinary hours, you will need to report to management that you have taken protected industrial action. You can do this through your staff portals. If you’re unsure what you need to do, seek advice from your NTEU Branch office.
  • If I am cancelling classes as part of a work stoppage, do I need to tell my students?
    Technically, no. However many academics advise their students prior to the class so that they are not unduly inconvenienced. The students are not the target of our industrial action, management is.
  • Do I have to participate in industrial action?
    No. The NTEU does not force or coerce its members into taking action. Under Australian law, there is no requirement for you to take part in industrial action in accordance with a democratic decision of your colleagues in which you have had a chance to have your say. However, most union members feel an obligation to their colleagues to participate in industrial action that has been the subject of a democratic decision. Each decision to take industrial action is a collective decision of NTEU members and the resulting actions are clearly more effective when all our members take action. If a democratic decision is made to take action it is important that everyone who can support that action does so by participating in it fully – we will all benefit from the results in better salaries and conditions, so we should all stand together to achieve them. For example, if the action decided on is to stop work, it undermines the action if someone continues to perform work at home. Solidarity is the core principle of unionism, because it works!
  • How your union can support you if you take industrial action
    Australian law requires that the employer must deduct pay for any period during which an employee is on strike. So, if you are on strike for a day, you will lose a day’s pay. If you participate in a work-ban – for example, on answering emails from management, or attending meetings called by management – the employer has three options: it can maintain your full pay, make a partial reduction in pay to reflect the severity of the ban, or not accept work from you at all (and not pay you at all) while you are participating in a ban. The NTEU has a ‘strike fund’, which can be used to support members, and casual members in particular, who lose income as a result of industrial action. The rules around protected industrial action protect you from adverse action by management; your contract cannot be terminated or your performance called into question as a result of participating in industrial action.
bottom of page