University staff could be forced onto individual contracts that undermine existing pay and conditions under the Federal Government’s new rules for higher education funding.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said that details of the funding package announced yesterday by Workplace Minister Tony Abbott threatened to cut $400 million in funding from universities unless they adopted new workplace relations requirements.

“The requirements are unfair, discriminatory and extremist. The regulations specifically aim to erode long-standing benefits like redundancy pay and to promote the use of casual labour,” Ms Burrow said.

“Collective agreements would become worthless for any staff forced onto individual contracts which would override existing arrangements.

“The changes would contravene internationally recognised rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

“The government is using standover tactics to force its extremist policies onto university staff and management.

“Mr Abbott has failed to get his industrial legislation through the parliament and is now trying to bully universities to adopt his policies by threatening them with massive funding cuts,” Ms Burrow said.

“These changes will do nothing to solve real workplace problems in universities such as high levels of job insecurity and excessive student-to-staff ratios.”

Ms Burrow said that the ACTU would support the National Tertiary Education Union and other university unions in opposing the changes to ensure that higher education staff continued to have the same rights as other Australian workers.