Academic and general staff at the Australian National University are almost certain to begin a round of work bans next month and could end up striking to protest a "derisory" 2 per cent pay offer by management and the breakdown of negotiations over workload and job security issues.
The National Tertiary Education held a mass meeting of 200 members on Tuesday afternoon where there was unanimous support for strike action to proceed.
The union will take the matter to Fair Work Australia to begin a protected action ballot which it is confident will be passed within the next four weeks.
The union's ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said it was likely staff would begin industrial action with a series of work bans including performing any work which would accrue time off in lieu, working outside the span of professional hours of work, or performing any work which was previously performed by any of the staff positions made redundant or left unfilled as a result of budget cuts.
But there was the prospect of strike action being conducted if the stalemate continued with members voting to consider strikes from one hour, four hours, 24 hours or walking off the job indefinitely.
Vice-chancellor Ian Young has announced 230 administrative jobs and an unspecified number of early retirements for academic staff as part of a raft of budget measures to cover a $51 million shortfall in federal government funding.
The 2 per cent pay offer comes on top of a 2 per cent compensatory offer to assist staff in dealing with workload increases and paid parking increases as a result of the cuts.
But Mr Darwin said this was "easily the lowest offer made by any university in Australia during this round of offers."
While there was unanimous support for industrial action, staff would only strike reluctantly and as a last resort.
"This is action we take very seriously and only as a last resort because we feel management is making no attempt to address legitimate concerns we have about pay and conditions.
The union had lowered its pay claim from 7 per cent to 4.5 per cent.
Union representatives met with both Professor Young and Chancellor Gareth Evans on Friday "to try and prevent direct confrontation" according to Mr Darwin.
He said the union had presented some positive options about achieving growth and income at the ANU through expanding student numbers particularly in the Asian market but Professor Young had taken a "hard line" stance on negotiating a pay rise.
Mr Darwin warned that because ANU salaries were already lagging behind other Group of 8 (and several non-Group of 8 institutions including the University of Canberra) it would it harder for the ANU to retain and attract staff.
He also noted the ANU was one of only two universities in the country without academic workload limits and it continued to allow professional staff to "accrue excess leave hours they will never have a chance to use".
A spokeswoman for Professor Young said "the university is committed to negotiating in good faith with staff and their unions and will continue to do so."