Australian academics are demanding a 19 per cent wage rise, a maximum 36-hour week and at least 20 weeks a year free from class contact with students - not counting annual leave and public holidays.
Vice-chancellors have described the claim as laughable, but the National Tertiary Education Union intends to pursue it vigorously. It has told its members the 19 per cent pay claim should be implemented by July 2002 and that during negotiations on each campus there should be no net job losses.
The NTEU is also insisting that universities agree to improve redundancy and redeployment arrangements, enhance disciplinary procedures and include in any agreements a "managing change" clause that includes a union veto on contract and casualisation of jobs, and on increased workloads.
A national conference of NTEU delegates has set out the requirements for the next bargaining round, due to begin in September.
The claim has already come under attack from the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association. It warned that thousands more jobs would be lost if universities were forced to meet the claim without additional government grants. The union's last claim for a 15 per cent salary increase (resulting in an average rise of about 12 per cent over two years) is estimated to have cost more than 5,000 jobs.
Under the conservative government's industrial laws, each university is supposed to negotiate its own agreement with staff or the local branches of the relevant unions. But the NTEU has made clear it intends to maintain tight control at all institutions.
The national conference decided that draft agreements must be endorsed by the federal office before branches reach a final decision with university management. Draft agreements must also have the approval of the union's executive before being signed by the general secretary.