Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) — My question today is for Minister Tierney, and I ask this question on behalf of a good friend of mine, Paul Adams. Victoria University (VU) has targeted Paul Adams, David Garland and Stuart Martin, all local National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) officers, for redundancy. This is happening just before the enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations begin. The behaviour of VU over the last few months in terms of the way they have handled the redundancies has been quite brutal. My question to you is: what do you believe the state government can do to stop VU's union-busting tactics?
Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her question and her ongoing interest in Victoria University. As the member would know, the industrial relations matters that are dealt with at the university are the province of the university, and the Victorian government's industrial relations policies do not indeed cover the university as such. I am advised that in terms of the current agreement it expires later this year, and in the current agreement there is the provision for change and redundancy and such matters that Ms Hartland referred to in terms of those who are having difficulties with their employment at Victoria University.
The allegations that you have raised are very serious allegations. Obviously I would imagine that those involved are seeking assistance from the NTEU, their union, but I would also imagine that they are also seeking advice from industrial relations lawyers, labour lawyers, as to what their options might be and indeed generally their issues relating to concerns about their conditions of employment.
Having said that, I am aware that some of these issues were canvassed in some media earlier this week and I do understand that the department is making inquiries of Victoria University management to better understand the issues that are being raised in the public realm. Of course we are wanting to know what the impact of any of these measures is on students and on courses and their availability, and of course we are wanting to protect the best interests of students and indeed see whether those interests are being protected and promoted.
I also note that neither the university nor the union itself has contacted the department about this issue. It has been primarily raised, as I said, in the media, and I am looking forward to understanding more about what the department has been able to gain from its inquiries with management of Victoria University.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) — Thank you for that answer, Minister. One of the problems that I understand will be the implication of all of these redundancies is that courses such as the master of communication and bachelor of marketing will be left without staff next year, and this is because there are simply so many redundancies that they have nobody to teach them anymore. I was a student of VU as a mature-age student, so I have quite an attachment to this organisation, but when I went there they actually seemed to care about their students and their staff, and now they seem to have just abandoned their staff, their students and their commitment to the western suburbs.
What action do you think you can take as minister to address what I now see as quite destructive behaviour by Victoria University management?
Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her question. In terms of what action I can take, I understand the action is quite limited because of the act by which the university is covered and commonwealth responsibilities. However, as I said in my substantive answer, the department is making inquiries and I have asked for a full list of courses that may be impacted as a result of other actions that may be taken at the university in respect of academic and support staff. Once I have received that advice I will be happy to have a further discussion with you.