Staff at the University of Sydney have taken their fourth day of strike action since May this year against an aggressive and hostile university management.
The strike on 17 August was “enormously successful”, NTEU branch president Nick Riemer told supporters at a rally on the day. At least eight entrances to the main university campus were picketed, with the university again deserted and cars and pedestrians turned away.
“We have had more union colleagues out on the pickets than we have had on previous days and our branch, the Sydney Uni branch of the NTEU, is now bigger than at any time in the last decade,” Riemer said.
Riemer said the strikes had begun forcing concessions from management.
“Since our last strike, we’ve got workload control mechanisms for professional staff for the first time.
“Management has softened their attack on the teaching-research nexus and on academic workload committees.” They have offered to limit changes to the 40/40/20 teaching-research workload formula for academics to 10 per cent.
“They’re telling us that they’re going to offer a serious decasualisation deal.
“We have told them in no uncertain terms that if they really want to remove the scourge of exploitative casualisation, they are going to have to create 880 ongoing teaching and research jobs.”
Staff are also continuing to fight for an above inflation pay rise, an enforceable First Nations employment target of 3 per cent, and four weeks annual gender affirmation leave.
Students also supported the strike action and joined picket lines. A “roaming picket”—where students went into strike-breaking classrooms to argue with staff and students to support the strike—resulted in one teacher cancelling his class, joining the pickets, and signing up to the union on the spot.
Students also joined classes still running on Zoom to talk to staff and students about why the class shouldn’t go ahead—resulting in one lecturer apologising to their students in an email for being “hacked” and stating that no student’s attendance would be penalised due to the class shutting down.
Students also prevented a soccer match between on-campus colleges St Andrews and Wesley from taking place during the strike by occupying the soccer field.
Staff are planning to stage further action during the university Open Day on Saturday 27 August.
They want university management to drop their attack on the 40/40/20 workload nexus completely and offer a serious reduction in casualisation.
As Riemer argued, “We have a lot of work left to do and this campaign has a long way still to run. I think we’re going to need more industrial action.”
By Luke Ottavi