2001 ASSLH conference – Becoming ‘unionate’? From staff association to national union: The ‘industrialisation’ of university staff 1983–1993

John O’Brien
School of Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour, University of New South Wales


This paper traces the history of the major unions covering Australian academic staff from the registration of the Federation of Australian University Staff and the Union of Australian College Academics in the federal industrial jurisdiction in the mid-1980s to the formation of the National Tertiary Education Union as an “industry” union incorporating general staff in 1983. The paper discusses the notion of “unionateness” and argues that the emergence of the NTEU is a product of changes in state policy, both in industrial relations terms and in the structural adjustment of higher education. It contests the view that its emergence is a product of simplistic notions of the “industrialisation” of the higher education sector.

This paper is an account of the collective organisation of academic staff in Australian higher education sector, the earlier instalment of which ended in 1983 at the point where the High Court overturned the State School Teachers’ decision of 1929 and opened the way for teachers and university staff to gain access to the federal industrial relations jurisdiction. It was argued that the formal industrial regulation of academic staff begun at least in the 1950s, but that many university staff, particularly in the pre-1987 universities, did not see themselves as employees.1 This paper then will map the narrowing of the gap between that consciousness and the reality of “industrialised” life. This process will be discussed in relation to the registration of organisations representing college and university staff; the response of those organisations to the “unified national system”; their experience as part of the federal industrial relations system and the processes leading to the formation of the National Tertiary Education Union. The paper will be based on an examination of the archives of the two principal academic unions, key policy documents and interviews with some of the leading participants in these processes.

The concept of ‘unionateness’

Blackburn formulated the concept of “unionateness” within a British context. The concept was designed as measure of the “commitment of an organisation to the general principles and ideology of trade unionism”. Blackburn identified the following seven indicators of union status; the declaration by the organisation of its union status; legal registration as a trade union; affiliation with a peak union council; affiliation with a labour party; independence of employers for negotiation purposes; the consideration of the protection of members’ interests and collective bargaining as a major function and the preparedness to use industrial action.2 Blackburn’s formulation was criticised as placing “too much emphasis on conscious ideological commitment and paying insufficient attention to instrumental motivation”. In particular, many white collar unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress but eschewed affiliation to the Labour Party.3 The formulation, moreover, is more restricted in its usefulness in Australia where registration with the conciliation and arbitration system afforded trade unions both recognition and monopoly representation rights without necessarily signifying broader trade union consciousness in any given organisation. Indeed WA Howard has argued that arbitration rendered Australian unions “tamecat” organisations designed to bring “comfort, security and peace of mind, not to unionists but to society”. On the other hand, Scherer argued that arbitration constituted “syndication” by the state whereby unions traded off supervision by the state for a largely unrestrained right to use industrial action outside the arbitral framework.4 Despite these difficulties, the Blackburn formulation of “unionateness” has some general usefulness for our purposes, particularly in relation to the willingness to take industrial action.5

Federal registration

By early 1987 three organisations representing academic staff were registered in the federal industrial relations jurisdiction: the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations; the Union of Australian College Academics and the Australian Teachers’ Union. The first two named represented staff in universities and colleges respectively. The Australian Teachers’ Union had significant coverage of the college sector in New South Wales and some residual coverage of university academics. Registration enabled the three organisations to use the federal Industrial Relations Commission for the purposes of seeking wage adjustments and to regulate other aspects of the working conditions of academics. Both UACA and the ATU were well versed in using state industrial jurisdictions to protect working conditions, while FAUSA had little experience in active use of these jurisdictions. In New South Wales, however, university staff formed a state-registered union. For most members of the three organisations the reality of industrial regulation probably only had any great significance when salary increases were being sought. Indeed FAUSA members were told that federal registration was simply a defensive action to preserve university academics being “poached” by organisations covering professional engineers and salaried medical practitioners.6 For UACA federal registration provided an opportunity for its state branches to convert state-based arrangements into federal awards, and to use the federal jurisdiction as a defence against a hostile state governments.7 While federal registration opened up opportunities that had been hitherto unavailable to the academic unions, for FAUSA, at least, there was a view that its work would not change fundamentally. Federal registration reinforced UACA’s “unionate” consciousness; for FAUSA formal registered status was uncharted territory for most of its membership and for some of its leadership. It was not the changed industrial status of the academic unions that provided the immediate challenge: rather it was the emerging changes in the structure of the higher education system itself.

Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education

In 1985 the federal Labor government established an enquiry into the efficiency and effectiveness of the Australian higher education system. The report of the enquiry made a number of significant recommendations concerning the employment conditions of academic staff. It recommended that a review of the terms and conditions of academic staff be undertaken as the basis for a “general agreement on academic staffing arrangements between institutions, staff associations and the Commonwealth government…”8 At no time, however, it suggested that the federal industrial jurisdiction was the appropriate place for the determination of employment conditions in the sector. The report, however, did not recommend the dissolution of the binary divide between universities and colleges of advanced education that had become increasingly under challenge.9

The dissolving binary divide

Despite this endorsement of the binary divide, the system was threatened by actions taken by state governments. In 1986 the Western Australian government redesignated the Western Australian Institute of Technology as a university. This decision placed UACA and FAUSA on a collision course over the coverage of academic staff. As a college of advanced education there was a long standing constituent staff association affiliated to the Federal Council of Academics (the unregistered identity of UACA). FAUSA’s rules enabled it represent academic staff in all universities. FAUSA gained federal registration in December 1986, while UACA was not registered until February 1987. During that “window of opportunity” FAUSA served a log of claims on the new Curtin University of Technology seeking to have academic salary scales at the institution regulated in a federal industrial award. The problem was that FAUSA had neither members nor a branch infrastructure at the institution. It sought to recruit members, but with limited success.10

Most academics stayed with FCA/UACA. The Curtin Academic Staff Association argued that FAUSA and FCA/UACA should amalgamate.11 The Staff Association regarded FAUSA’s response on this issue as equivocal.12. The administration of Curtin University chose to deal with FAUSA rather than the staff association.13. UACA sought to have Curtin academic staff included in its coverage rules. This was refused initially by the Industrial Registrar, but subsequently granted by the Commission in July 1987.14 The Vice Chancellors’ industrial body, the Australian Universities Industrial Association, appealed against the decision. A full bench upheld it in October 1988.15 In the meantime UACA and FAUSA agreed to share coverage at Curtin University, with FAUSA agreeing not to recruit existing UACA members on the campus.16 The general secretary of UACA, Grahame McCulloch, proclaimed this decision as paving the way for amalgamation between UACA and FAUSA.17

The ‘unified national system’ of higher education

The appointment of JS Dawkins as Minister of Education in 1988, however, presented a much greater challenge to the academic unions. The Green Paper on higher education issued in December 1987 and the subsequent White Paper in July 1989 set out proposals for fundamental changes in the organisation and funding of universities and significant changes in the working conditions of university staff. The two principal academic unions had to decide how best to respond to these changes. For FAUSA the emergence of the unified national system and the amalgamation of institutions designed to facilitate that process, threatened to dilute the distinctiveness of research-based university work. Nevertheless, FAUSA had uncontested industrial coverage of academic staff in all institutions designated as “universities”. While UACA had been able to maintain its coverage at Curtin University, its future in a unified system was not secure in the longer term. Moreover, UACA could see benefits for its members in the unified system. They could have access to the same salary scales as their university counterparts, as well as being given the opportunity to share in the research funds hitherto allocated to universities. Their was a strong incentive for UACA to amalgamate with FAUSA, particularly after the government set a minimum 10,000 membership for continued registration within the federal jurisdiction.

The emerging issue was addressed by FAUSA at its council meeting in February 1987. The FAUSA executive thought that the organisation had three options: to reject amalgamation altogether, to move for it immediately, or to initiate a widespread discussion within its membership.18 A considerable diversity of views about amalgamation was apparent in the meeting. The executive and staff concentrated on the industrial aspects of relations between the unions, while council members were more concerned with the implications of the dissolution of the binary division. One member expressed concern about the inferior qualifications of college staff. It was acknowledged, he said, “that persons who obtained high level appointments in colleges would not get a tutorial appointment in universities”.19 Another member predicted a significant loss of membership at his university if amalgamation took place.20 Other members, however, argued that the binary divide was breaking down; some institutes of technology were being upgraded, and that “traditional universities” would be left behind these institutions in the quest for funds.21 An executive member argued that the binary divide was not the main issue, rather it was the existence of two federal unions covering academics. In the current environment FAUSA was in a strong position: UACA was “shrinking” and there was the “snob appeal” of belonging to FAUSA.22 At its August 1987 Council meeting FAUSA endorsed the amalgamation concept. At its 1988 Council meeting it endorsed a structure for an amalgamated union and instructed the executive to draw up a set of rules for the new organisation that would be subject to the endorsement of two thirds of branches.23 While these issues remained unresolved the unions had to respond to the plans for a unified system of higher education—both in policy and industrial terms.

The policy response: ‘Thinking ahead’

The unions crafted a carefully worded document designed to be critical of some of the government’s proposals, while not rejecting its basic assumptions. Thinking Ahead defended the multiplicity of functions of higher education including training, certification, research, advice and critical public comment within a framework of the “creation and transmission of knowledge”. The role of social critic and the vocational and utilitarian roles were said to be parts of an inseparable whole. The unions argued that economic and social innovation, with direct utility to society, was often the product of general and abstract thought that may have seemed “far fetched” at the time its formulation.24 The objection to the Green Paper then was not to its instrumentalism per se; rather it was to the narrowness of its instrumentalism. The unions argued that the socially critical role of universities was a superior form of instrumentalism to that espoused by the government. In doing so the unions were attempting to turn government’s assumptions on their head, in order to reassert a less overtly instrumental conception of higher education.25

In formulating the response in this manner, the unions were implicitly accepting the reality of the shift in the character of the system. FAUSA represented members who had enjoyed a funding advantage for research purposes. It was necessary therefore to assert the value of the preservation of basic research in the new system. UACA had no difficulty in signing on to that agenda. On the other hand, it could not be a party to an all-out assault on vocationally oriented instrumentalism when most of its members worked in such institutions. The claim that general and social critical education and pure research constituted a superior form of instrumentalism enabled the differing interests of the members of the two organisations to coexist, if not be entirely reconciled. Indeed the subsequent White Paper on higher education was able to claim that the objections of the academic unions were more about matters of “priority and balance” rather than fundamental disagreement with the government’s assumptions and objectives.26

The structural adjustment of university employment: The ‘second tier’

One of the crucial aspects of the Dawkins agenda was to bring the employment conditions of university staff into the mainstream of industrial regulation. This was achieved through the application of the broader structural adjustment agenda of the government to university employment. This was to be achieved through the mechanisms of the “second tier” and structural efficiency processes of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which had themselves emerged from the Accord processes of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Labor government. These processes became the means whereby the government could promote the changes in the nature of university employment.27 Moreover, the ACTU thought that academics could not stand aloof from the structural adjustment of the education and training sector.28

For the two principal academic unions this process presented somewhat different challenges. For FAUSA it was important to preserve the centrality of the research and general education said to be characteristic of university life. For UACA the task was to ensure that college academic staff was not submerged by that culture as many college staff were being drawn into amalgamations with “traditional” universities,29 in some cases amidst considerable controversy.30 For FAUSA, moreover, these processes represented the first significant regulation of employment conditions of university staff, whereas for UACA such regulation was a common reality for much of its membership. For many FAUSA members this presented a threat to their conditions, rather than a means of protecting them.31 For university employers it was an opportunity to embed in university employment conditions a greater measure of managerial authority. These processes represented the first system-wide regulation of university employment, whereas for many other sectors, these processes were a significant reduction of regulation by the state and an enhanced regulation of working conditions by market forces and managerial authority.32

The FAUSA leadership was placed in a difficult position. It took a decision to support the concept of unified salary structure. It was thought that amalgamation between the two national academic unions would happen eventually. To maintain two separate structures would have caused considerable difficulty in a merged organisation. This approach was not always welcome among parts of the FAUSA membership, particularly where institutional amalgamations were being resisted. Some of the strongest opposition to these changes came from branches that regarded themselves as taking a radical approach to society and politics generally.33 On the other hand UACA was strongly committed to the combined salary scale.

Although academics received a second tier wage adjustment in June 1988, the negotiations over changes in working conditions continued into 1989 and involved two separate rounds of arbitrated proceedings. At the end of this process, redundancy and dismissal procedures were introduced across the system, as well as processes to assess staff performance, together with some compensatory staff development programs. For some members in the traditional university sector these developments undermined the notion of academic tenure and, as such, constituted a threat to academic freedom.34  The leadership of the unions, however, argued that regulation of the processes leading to the declaration of unsatisfactory performance and to eventual dismissal constituted a protection of employment conditions.35

The feeling of betrayal on the part of some members had been compounded by the intervention of the Commonwealth in its capacity as “paymaster” supporting the employers’ agenda. This, in their view, demonstrated the malevolence of the government amidst the difficult process of restructuring of the sector.36 The 4 per cent wage adjustment was regarded as insufficient recompense for the significant trade offs that had been made by the unions. FAUSA, in particular, had a problem of political management of significant sections of its membership.37

There were differences in the industrial approach taken by the two unions. FAUSA relied on political intervention rather than industrial action. This partly reflected tradition within the organisation, as well as its decentralised structure. FAUSA still largely operated as a federation of staff associations whose members placed great store on their operational autonomy. This was suitable when the activities of the associations were largely confined to representing individual members in their institutions. It was not a structure conducive to mobilisation on a national scale. UACA had developed in a different manner that reflected its location within the college sector. State governments exercised close supervision over colleges. As a consequence UACA developed a state-based structure, at least in the larger states, that was more used to confronting external bodies that exercised considerable influence over employment conditions in colleges. Nevertheless there was no tradition of mobilisation of FCA members on a national basis. The decision of UACA to call nation-wide stop meetings of its members (together with college-based members of the ATU in NSW) in October 1988 was an indication that there was greater willingness to use the tactics of “real” unions. It did not, however, constitute the adoption of militancy that has characterised school teachers in the 1960s and 1970s. For the time being, however, FCA/UACA was more “unionate” than FAUSA.

The structural adjustment of university employment: Award restructuring

The second tier episode received a mixed reception in the trade union movement. Many unions thought that they had been forced to trade off conditions in exchange for a wage increase. The structural efficiency principle adopted by the Industrial Relations Commission in 1988 was an attempt to meet these objections without necessarily abandoning the cost cutting approach to enhancing efficiency. The effect of this general direction in workplace reform meant for many unions, especially the weaker ones, a lessening of the external regulation and the operation of flexibility in the workplace that was likely to increase managerial prerogative.38 In the university sector, however, a different model emerged. Award restructuring became a means of regulating academic work in a way that had not been possible on a national basis before the availability of the federal industrial jurisdiction. The “positive” side of the award restructuring for many unions was that they were able to use the discourse of multi-skilling and of the training required to achieve that objective, to argue for a model of work flexibility that would benefit workers. Academic work was already multi-skilled and it required the exercise of a significant degree of autonomy for those carrying out the work. Thus the task for the academic unions was not to enhance multi-skilling as such, but to regulate it such a way as to provide a career structure that incorporated the differing, but overlapping, skills of the university and college academics. For employers, on the other hand, there was a somewhat more contradictory task. Vice-Chancellors wanted to reinforce their prerogative to discipline, redeploy and dismiss staff. This could be achieved through national regulation of academic work. On the other hand, it wanted those regulations to be sufficiently flexible to allow the maximum degree of movement at the institutional level.39 Vice-Chancellors resisted, for instance, tighter regulation of the proportion of employees that could be employed on a casual basis.40

Not all the differences were between the employers and the unions. There were different approaches by the two unions to the creation to a combined classification system. All parties agreed to a five level classification structure ranging from the bottom of the structure (level A) to the top (level E). The unions wanted level A to be the beginning of a career structure. While the employers did not claim that the level A position would often be the first step to an academic career, it resisted the formalisation of that principle in the structure. Eventually it was agreed that about 30 per cent of people occupying those positions would have continuing appointments. On the other hand, there was serious disagreement between the unions about the nomenclature of the new classifications. UACA wanted the level A position to be called lecturer. This reflected the position in the former college structure where those at the bottom were referred to as lecturers, although differentiated as lecturers 1, 2 and 3.41 FAUSA, on the other hand, favoured the nomenclature of “associate lecturer”.

The other party in the negotiations was the federal government both its role as “paymaster”, and as policy driver of the structural adjustment of the education and training sector. It tended to act put pressure on both sides to accept parts of its agenda. The government was credited with persuading the employers’ acceptance of the position classification standards agreed by the unions, while at the same time supporting the Vice-Chancellors in their pursuit of a system of performance appraisal for academics.42 Nevertheless there was a perception among the employers that the government was more in tune with the unions’ positions, particularly when an UACA industrial officer was appointed to act as a consultant on award restructuring. This apparent advantage, however, was not sufficient to prevent the unions taking industrial action in support of outstanding claims in October 1990. National stop work meetings were held and decisions were taken to place bans on the transmission of final results in universities.43 The purpose of this action was twofold: to demonstrate to the government that academics were capable of taking and sustaining industrial action, while at the same time putting pressure on the employers to take a more acceptable position on matters in dispute.

The action was historic. It was the first time that academics from both higher education sectors took industrial action in concert. For FAUSA this was a most significant development and it made much of it in its subsequent submissions to the Industrial Relations Commission.44 For UACA and ATU members the action was not novel, but it was clearly stronger with the participation of members of the largest academic union. Nevertheless, behind this united front were some significant tactical differences. To the FAUSA leadership industrial action should only take place after a long period of build up among the membership designed to generate widespread support when it did take place. In that context the unions were more likely to gain maximum advantage in the Commission.45 On the other hand, the UACA leadership saw itself as leading a more industrially disciplined organisation.46 FAUSA thought that UACA was more inclined to take symbolic action and then cut a deal with the employers. UACA had less faith in the Commission to produce an outcome that was acceptable.47 For UACA this different approach was a reflection of its being an “explicitly industrial” organisation. Most of the debates within UACA were tactical, whereas FAUSA was still debating whether it ought to act like a union.48 For the FAUSA leadership, however, the FAUSA model of extensive debate about both policy and tactics was vital in the process of engendering support among its membership (Zetlin 2000).

Craft union or industry union?

The redesignation of institutes of technology in the mid-1980s and the subsequent emergence of the unified national system of higher education rendered an amalgamation between the two academic unions as almost inevitable. It took, however, nearly five years for it to occur and then in a form that had not been envisaged in 1987.

Union amalgamations involve organisational issues that may not be related directly to the particular styles or cultures of organisations. They include issues such as the relative power of the organisations in the new entity, the distribution of paid offices; particularly within the leadership; and the relative power of the centre and the peripheral entities within of the new organisation. FAUSA clearly had an advantage. It had coverage rules that include all academic staff in universities, whereas UACA’s rules largely confined it to the disappearing college sector. FAUSA consisted of a structure of institution-based branches with a tradition of strong autonomy, and a national office whose coordination role was enhanced by the registration of the organisation within the federal jurisdiction. UACA had institutional branches and a national office, but it had also some strong state level branches. The Victorian members of the UACA constituted 45 per cent of the total UACA membership. The FAUSA stronghold was in NSW (with about 40 per cent of the membership), but it was complicated by the fact that it took the form of a state-registered union, that incorporated both FAUSA and UACA members. Nevertheless, the state-registered union that became the Academics Union of NSW, represented a model that could be duplicated at the federal level thus facilitating FAUSA domination of the new entity.

After some argument it was agreed that that FAUSA would fill the office of President, while the General Secretary’s position would be filled by UACA. It was also agreed that state divisions would be formed with important coordination roles. The full-time state secretaries in Victoria and South Australia would remain and that they would be filled by the existing UACA state secretaries, at least in the first instance. This was not a problem in Victoria where UACA was numerically stronger than FAUSA, but in South Australia this emerged as a significant issue. The staff associations at the University of Adelaide and Flinders University were prepared to accept the incumbent UACA secretary as state secretary as long as the focus of power and organisation remained at the branch level. The overall membership fee would remain low and that only a small proportion of the fees would be used for operating a state office would ensure this arrangement.49 On the other hand, the UACA state secretary wished to retain his leading role in the state organisation.50

These arguments about structure took place initially in the context of amalgamation model involving the two academic unions. In late 1989, however, McCulloch produced a model that involved general staff membership in the union. It was in part, designed to outmanoeuvre FAUSA.51 Discussions had taken place between the UACA leadership and the leadership of a state-registered union covering general staff, the Victorian Colleges and Universities Staff Association (VCUSA). VCUSA had an established relationship with the state body of UACA, the Council of Academic Staff. VCUSA was concerned about its long-term future, as were many small unions.52 It needed partners that had existing federal registration. Both UACA and FAUSA were federally registered organisations, but general staff in colleges and universities outside Victoria were covered by a variety of organisations, principally state-based public service and health sector unions. In the ACT, however, there was federally registered union with about 130 members covering senior general staff at the Australian National University: the ANU Administrative and Allied Officers Association (ANUAAOA). It had no future as registered organisation within the federal jurisdiction and it did not want to be absorbed into the principal union covering general staff at ANU, the Health Services Union of Australia. Amalgamating with the two academic unions and a much larger general staff specialist union in another state was the ideal solution of the ANUAAOA.53 It was also the optimal solution for UACA. The combined membership of UACA, VCUSA and ANUAAOA of about 13000 members would be sufficient to counter balance the membership of FAUSA with about 9000 members.54 The model, moreover, had the support of the ACTU.55 After considerable argument, and some reluctance from sections of the FAUSA, this was the model that was presented to the memberships of the amalgamating parties in 1993.

This model was largely acceptable to the UACA membership and the members of the various general staff unions, but there was significant opposition in parts of the FAUSA membership. The FAUSA leadership in South Australia organised a campaign against the industry model. Most of the general staff members would be located in Victoria. This, they claimed, would lead to ongoing disputes about coverage of general staff outside that state. Moreover the financial arrangements of the new union would give too many resources to the state divisions and too little to branches.56

Although the FAUSA leadership supported the amalgamation, key figures such as general secretary, Di Zetlin, declined to repudiate its dissident members, arguing that they would be need to be reconciled to the new union.57 Opponents of the amalgamation that have been interviewed by the author denied that they were attempting to invoke snobbery among the FAUSA rank and file who might be uncomfortable being in the same organisation as general staff.58 On the other hand, supporters of the amalgamation among the UACA and FAUSA leaderships argued that this was an important underlying motivation.59 Whatever the rationalisations, there seemed to be a fundamental conflict about the nature of unionism in the sector. The UACA model (with considerable support among FAUSA activists in NSW) looked more like a union traditionally understood: a strong central strategic direction and leadership coupled with a capacity to mobilise members when required. The FAUSA model, as expressed in South Australia, placed considerable emphasis on branch autonomy and a individual grievance or service model of unionism and much less emphasis on the industrial mobilisation of members. It was thought that the presence of general staff in the union would strengthen the former model at the expense of the latter. The reservations within FAUSA are reflected in the final vote in favour of amalgamation. While over 95 per cent of UACA and ANUAAOA members supported the proposition, only about 75 per cent of FAUSA members did so.60 The tensions between local autonomy and central leadership remain with in the NTEU today.


Industrial relations and union consciousness did not begin with the registration of UACA and FAUSA within the federal industrial jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the combination of shifts of state policy regarding the structure of higher education moved the unions in a direction whereby they had little choice to become more union conscious or more “unionate”.

The driving force behind the changes in the nature of academic and subsequently university unionism, was UACA and its general secretary, Grahame McCulloch. He led an organisation whose members had more experience with conflictual relations with institutional managements and with closer supervision by state authorities. The intervention of the state both in the industrial and in the policy arenas moved the more cautious FAUSA members closer to a model of collective organisation more familiar to college academic staff and to many general staff. It was not so much that higher education became an “industry” through the agency of the industrial relations system, rather it was the structure of the sector that changed. There was, however, no inevitability about the nature of the organisation that emerged in the form of the NTEU. Although the ACTU and the federal government and the ACTU provided the discourse of industry unionism, it did not follow that such a model would emerge in the higher education sector. The coincidence of federal registration and the restructuring of the sector provided an opportunity for more extensive industrial regulation of work in universities, while the phase of managed decentralism of the industrial relations system was the beginning of the decline of detailed state regulation of employment conditions in many other sectors. It can be said that the NTEU is more “unionate” that any one of its parts, but it remains a product of that mixture of organisational structures and cultures. The contemporary NTEU incorporates the FAUSA tradition of relative branch autonomy with the UACA / ACUSA style of centralised strategic direction and membership mobilisation. Indeed to conclude that any organisation achieves some precise “unionate” status is to deny the ever-emergent nature of unionism. Just as the working class may continue to be made, so are unions. University staff were not so much “industrialised”, but the nature of the industry itself changed. Industrial relations existed long before the institution of the unified higher education sector, but the changes in the late 1980s intensified the industrial consciousness of university staff. The NTEU in its emerging form is primarily a product of those changes, but it is not in itself a manifestation of the coming of “industrial relations” to the sector.


1 John O’Brien, “The Collective Organisation of Australian Academic Staff 1949-1983”, The Journal of Industrial Relations, 35 (2), 1993: 195-220.
2 R.M. Blackburn, Union Character and Social Class: A Study of White Collar Unionism, Batsford, London, 1967: 18.
3 G.S. Bain, D. Coates and V.Ellis, Social Stratification and Trade Unionism: A Critique, Heinemann Educational Books, London; R. Hyman and R. Price (eds), The New Working Class: White Collar Workers and their Organisations: A Reader, MacMillan, London: 163-4.
4 W.A. Howard, “Australian Trade Unions in the Context of Union Theory”, The Journal of Industrial Relations: 19 (3), 1977: 272-3; P. Scherer, “State Syndicalism” , in J.Hyde and J. Nurick (eds), Wages Wasteland: A Radical Examination of the Australian Wage Fixing System, Hale and Iremonger and the Australian Institute of Public Policy, Sydney, 1985: 94; O’Brien, op. cit. 195-6.
5 This marker of “unionateness” has been influential in the histories of organisations covering groups such as school teachers, public servants, bank workers and nurses. See B. Bessant and A. Spaull, Teachers in Conflict, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1972; J. O’Brien, A Divided Unity: The Politics of NSW Teacher Militancy since 1945, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, 1987; M. Simms, Militant Public Servants: Politicisation, Feminisation and Selected Public Service Unions, MacMillan, Melbourne, 1987; J. Hill, From Subservience to Strike: Industrial Relations in the Banking Industry, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1982 and C. Fox, “The Antecedents of the 1986 Victorian Nurses’ Strike”, The Journal of Industrial Relations, 32 (4), 1990: 465-487; C. Fox, “Tribunal Policy and Dispute Settlement: The Nurses’ Case 1995-6”, The Journal of Industrial Relations, 35 (2), 1993: 292-315.
6 Interviews with Ralph Hall, former President of FAUSA, February 2000; Di Zetlin, former General Secretary FAUSA, former President NTEU, October 2000; Rod Crewther, University of Adelaide branch, FAUSA and NTEU and Cathy Harrington former Field Officer FAUSA and South Australian Division Industrial Officer, July 2000.
7 Interview with Grahame McCulloch, former General Secretary, FCA / UACA, General Secretary, NTEU, December 1999.
8 Ibid, 22.
9 Ibid, 195-199.
10 FAUSA, Memorandum to Executive from Philip Elkins, Re: Award Coverage of Curtin University of Technology, 27 April 1987; FAUSA, Curtin University—Implications, confidential memo to Executive and Staff, of FAUSA from LB Wallis, General Secretary, 11 February, 1987; FAUSA, letter to academic staff members, Curtin University of Technology, 27 February, 1987, NTEU archives
11 FCA and Academic Staff Association of the Western Australian Institute of Technology, Demarcation Dispute: The Official FCA and ASA View, nd but 1987; Academic Staff Association of the Western Australian Institute of Technology, nd but 1987, Why you should not join AAUS/FAUSA. Letter to members. NTEU archives
12 Interview with McCulloch.
13 Curtin University of Technology 1987, Academic Staff Position, Council—29 July 1987.
14 ACAC [Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission], s.88F application, Union of Australian College Academics, C No. Of 2159 of 1987, Decision, Print HO289.
15 ACAC, s.35 appeal against order, Australian Universities Industrial Association [C No. 30132 of 1988], Decision, Print H4765.
16 Australian Association of University Staff and Union of Australian Academics, Agreement, [re: demarcation], 15 June 1987.
17 Grahame McCulloch, “UACA Victory paves the way for amalgamation”, Journal of Advanced Education, July 1987.
18 FAUSA, Minutes of Representative Council Meeting 1987…Wednesday and Thursday 19 February, 1987: 11 –12.
19 ibid, 19.
20 ibid, 22.
21 ibid, 21.
22 ibid, 20.
23 FAUSA News, February 1989.
24 FCA and FAUSA, Thinking Ahead: Planning Growth in Australian Higher Education, Melbourne, 1988.
25 John Hinkson, “Academic Union Conferring with Dawkins”, Arena, 84, 112—132.
26 JS Dawkins, Higher Education: A Policy Statement, AGPS, Canberra, 1988, p 5.
27 Department of Employment Education and Training, National Report on the Australia’s Higher Education Sector, AGPS, Canberra: 153-5.
28 ACTU, Response to the Federal Government Higher Education Discussion Paper, ACTU, Melbourne 1988.
29 Interview with Murphy, op cit.
30 On the debate at UNSW see Patrick O’Farrell, UNSW: A Portrait: The University of New South Wales, 1949-1999, UNSW Press, Sydney, 1999.
31 Interviews with Harrington / Crewther; Zetlin.
32 Interview with McCulloch.
33 Interview with Zetlin.
34 Jan Currie, “The Emergence of Higher Education as an Industry: The Second Tier Awards and Award Restructuring”, Australian Universities
Review, 35 (2), 1992: 17.
35 Interview with Hall.
36 Currie, op cit, 18.
37 Ibid.
38 Richard Curtain and John Mathews, “Two Models of Award Restructuring in Australia”, Labour and Industry, 3 (1): 58 –75.
39 David Penington 1991, Witness Statement to Industrial Relations Commission, 8 February 1991, AHEIA exhibit, NTEU archives.
40 Jan Currie, “Award Restructuring for Academics: The Negotiating Process”, Discourse, 15, 2, 1994: 22-4.
41 FCA/UACA 1989 FCA and UACA 1989, Award Restructuring for the Unified National Higher Education System: A Proposal from the Federated Council of Academics and the Union of Australian College Academics, 18 February 1989.
42 Currie, “Award Restructuring for Academics…”: 24-5.
43 FCA, Industrial Action and Award Restructuring, Memorandum to State and Territory Councils, 30 October.
44 ACAC, National Wage Case 1989, Application to Vary Certain Awards. Re: Wage Rates, C No. 37277 of 1989, Transcript, submission by Di Zetlin, 1779.
45 Interview with Zetlin, op cit.
 46 Currie, Award Restructuring…
47 Interview with Zetlin.
48 Currie, Award Restructuring…; interview with Murphy,
49 Interview with John Summers, July 2000; NTEU in South Australia : Why a Minimal State Structure Should Occur in S.A. undated document but 1994.
50 Paul Acfield, The Role of the South Australian Division in 1994—A Discussion Paper, memorandum to NTEU interim executive.
51 Interviews with Murphy, Zetlin and Lewis.
52 Interview with Lewis.
53 This is largely based on the direct experience of the author who was UACA secretary in the ACT, 1991-1993, and an ex officio member of the UACA Federal Executive.
54 The University of Adelaide General Staff Association also became an amalgamation partner.
55 Confidential Background Paper on Demarcation Matters in Higher Education, produced for Bill Mansfield by the Australian Colleges and Universities Staff Association, October 1991. NTEU Archives.
56 Ballot on Union Amalgamation: A Case for FAUSA Members Voting No, leaflet circulated in South Australia, nd but 1993; interview with Summers.
57 Interview with Zetlin.
58 Interviews with Harrington / Crewther and Summers.
59 Interviews with McCulloch and Hall, op cit; and Carolyn Allport, FAUSA Executive member, FAUSA and President, NTEU, 2000.
60 FAUSA News, 23 July 1993.