On Monday 21 August, following a half day campus-wide strike by Melbourne University NTEU members, five areas including Arts and Law went on to strike for the rest of the week.
In the tertiary sector, issues such as the high numbers on casual and insecure contracts, massive workloads and gender affirmation leave are as important as pay.
Throughout the week, numerous, enthusiastic, and confident rallies drew people into activity and won new people to the union. But with just the areas of highest union density on strike the reality was for the most part the campus continued to run as usual. Not surprisingly, management was unmoved.
But when the union called a mass meeting to consider further strike action, management offered to make “reasonable endeavours” to meet a 75 per cent secure work target to try and stall the strike action.
The meeting voted for an all-out strike in week ten (starting 2 October).
It’s a step forward that members and activists can see the importance of united action, rather than striking faculty-by-faculty.
But a week-long strike is an ambitious call. Making this strike real will mean convincing every member of the importance of joining the strike, and recruiting many more people to the union.
Faculty meetings across the campus can build rank-and-file support. Leafleting the gates and announcements in every lecture and tutorial can help generate momentum and build student support for the strike.
Most importantly, serious pickets during the week of the strike will be needed to make sure the strike stops “business as usual” on the campus. Roaming pickets can engage any classes that attempt to go ahead.
University management was promising to act on casual staffing 15 months ago, but has done nothing but offer a clause with no guarantees. Building solidly for this strike can build an even stronger, united rank-and-file that will be needed to win an EBA that includes a real pay rise above inflation and a decasualisation clause that is enforceable.
By Geraldine Fela