By Charles Fedor

Our University has not had a good run over the last two weeks. A series of self-inflicted unfortunate events and catastrophic leaks have put the University comprehensively on the back foot. This was a leak so devastating in its frankness that the University had to call an all-school meeting the next day to make it clear to furious staff that they will be pressing ahead with the restructures in their current form, despite the leaks suggesting staff have been used like “bargaining chips” and that management has been working to avoid freedom of information requests. This all has raised serious questions over whether UWA can successfully claim that they have substantively consulted staff. Pelican will be providing analysis on the so-called ‘Ludwig Files’ at a later date.


This perfect storm of factors surrounds a FairWork Commission hearing in which the Commission has been asked to intervene in the ongoing dispute over the School of Social Sciences restructure. According to publicly available documents, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Martin Forsey has lodged the application so as to have the Commission rather than the University follow the dispute resolution mechanisms outlined in the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.  If successful, the Forsey case may mitigate alleged conflicts of interest and also allow for staff to engage in a more transparent process. The Commission will not be hearing the merits of the proposal itself, rather why they should intervene in the process. According to their website, the Commission can respond in the following ways:

  • referring an application to a staff conciliator to help resolve the dispute informally
  • issuing directions about how an application is to be dealt with
  • requiring people involved in an application to appear before the Commission
  • inviting submissions (verbal or in writing)
  • taking evidence
  • conducting conferences
  • holding hearings, and
  • make decisions and orders.
  • The Commission can also dismiss applications in certain circumstances. Details of the options available to the Commission in dealing with applications are in ss.585–611 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act).


According to sources, it seems the University will be bringing legal counsel to defend themselves at the Commission. It is unclear if UWA will be utilising their internally retained legal team of five lawyers or seek external counsel. There are no requirements for legal representation at Commission meetings. In addition, it seems that the University may also be calling Head of Social Sciences Professor Amanda Davies to the hearing, to defend the restructure. The matters possibly under discussion include:

  • The consultation process allegedly breaking the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement as the timeframe was too short. It is worth noting the university attempted to push this restructure through on the holidays without student comment, with staff informed of their planned redundancy in a “town hall”.
  • Issues of transparency and the lack of rationale for the abolishment of Anthropology and Sociology.
  • That the University has allegedly failed to adhere to due process by preventing information from being provided to affected staff.


Students have begun rallying around Professor Forsey, with soon-to-be victims of the ongoing restructure reportedly planning to attend the hearing to show solidarity. Pelican has been given permission to report on the hearing and will be bringing you the latest as this story continues to develop. The hearing is open to anyone and details have been provided on the Commission’s website, summarised below:


When: Wednesday 27th of October at 10:30am

Where: 111 St George’s Terrace, Level 12

Who: Professor Martin Forsey (Complainant) v The University of Western Australia (Defendant). Heard by Commissioner Williams.


UWA’s Legal Team were contacted for comment.

Image: AMMA

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