Staff are preparing to strike in the first week of classes at the University of Sydney. They’re taking this industrial action to defend their wages and conditions in the National Tertiary Education Union’s (NTEU) new Enterprise Agreement.
University management are on the offensive. After students and staff mounted a campaign against job cuts last year (see left), management wants to make it even easier to get away with sacking staff.
The NTEU wants to strengthen job security and reduce casualisation in the new agreement. Management, however, wants to attack sick leave, job security, superannuation, academic workload provisions, limits on casualisation, wages and intellectual freedom. Their offer of a 2 per cent pay rise is a real pay cut when inflation and the rising cost of living are taken into account, and well below previous pay rises.
The belligerent attitude of management and their tactic of delaying negotiations, is intended to intimidate the union into submission. The University is crying poor, but it sits on a cash surplus of $93 million, is funding a $385 million research centre, and recently received its biggest ever donation of $20 million to fund a senior executive training program! The money is clearly there.
The issue of job security has hit a raw nerve amongst staff. Michael Thomson, President of the Sydney NTEU branch, said “Staff are still bruised from last year’s job cuts and are angry at the lack of progress with the enterprise bargaining negotiations. Enough is enough.” Staff have good reason to be angry. They also have good reason to feel confident, after last year’s successes.
Students are organising to build support for the strike through orientation week with support from the Student Representative Council (SRC) with a speak-out at the Vice-Chancellor’s welcome address, and are mobilising for the picket lines.
This is part of a bigger fight against the corporate model of education. Cuts to staff and conditions go hand in hand with course cuts, overflowing tutorials, growing student debt and student poverty. Staff and students deserve a better deal.