Workers at five universities in Melbourne — Melbourne, Monash, Swinburne, RMIT and Deakin, plus a Hawthorn college — struck on Thursday, May 21.
Staff at the University of Tasmania also walked out in what was said to be the first strike there in 20 years.
Support from members of the National Tertiary Education Union was high overall, with reports of half-empty carparks. Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus, for instance, was apparently deserted.
Picket lines were well supported, with numbers peaking at more than 100 at RMIT.
There was plenty of solidarity. The best came from CFMEU members, who refused to cross picket lines on three sites at RMIT and one at Swinburne–where the action stopped a concrete pour!
The MUA had a delegation of officials at the city centre rally, and there were messages of support from other unions, such as the NUW and AEU. Students joined the picket lines, which were endorsed by the Victorian
Trades Hall Council.
About 800 strikers rallied outside the State Library at lunchtime, including about 250 who marched down from Melbourne Uni.
The best speech came from Verity Burgmann, Politics Professor at Melbourne Uni. Verity painted a vivid picture of the way neoliberalism had white-anted higher education. The speech is available in full elsewhere on this site.
The talk from the NTEU state secretary was that the action wouldn’t stop here. The ballot results at all universities were very good (including La Trobe, which balloted too late to join the action), which means there’s a clear mandate.
But now there will be an argument over how and when to turn that into more action.
There’s a warning note from Victoria Uni, which late last year and early this year was leading the way with industrial action to stop a jobs massacre. The branch there decided to suspend action because negotiations
were going well (and didn’t join the statewide strike) — but talks have dragged on, jobs are going and union meetings are shrinking.
Solidarity members put out a leaflet arguing for stepping things up, which was well received.
by an NTEU member