Sydney Uni staff took their fourth day of strike action this semester on 14 May. Once again the university was successfully shut down, with even less people visible on campus than during the previous days of strike action.
The strike campaign has forced university management to back off on some of their more outrageous demands—such as writing out the union as a party to the agreement and scrapping the anti-discrimination clause.
But the management has dug in its heels over a series of crucial issues. It wants to remove the NTEU site office from the campus and take away the union’s access to internal university systems and services. It also wants to reduce staff rights to consultation and review processes, making it easier to sack people.
After the university’s failed effort to axe 100 academic staff last year, this has left many seething. As French studies academic Browyn Winter wrote in an open letter to management, “Last year’s redundancy exercise has shown us that if anything, those processes need to be strengthened”.
To top it off, management wants to make it harder to enforce limits on workload for both academic and general staff. After a series of cuts on campus, overwork is already rife. As Spiro, a general staff member told Solidarity, “In the last three years where I work there was a staff freeze, from about 45 staff we’re down to less than 20 now. The workload’s tripled for most staff and conditions have worsened dramatically.
“Management need to face that they can’t keep hurting their staff if they want quality education for their students.”
This dispute has an importance well beyond Sydney Uni. Every university management is watching to see if whether the best unionised workforce in the sector can be beaten.
Staff are set to strike again on 4 June. It’s clear that the pressure on management will have to increase further in order to force them to back down.