Academics warn of further action


Academics warn of further action

By Andy Gianniotis

WOLLONGONG — A strike by Wollongong University academics took place on July 28 and 29. The strike was called by the National Tertiary Education Industry Union (NTEU) after a breakdown in negotiations over the number of hours academics are required to teach. The strike was the longest continuous action ever taken by academics at Wollongong University.

More than 100 unionists and students picketed the two main entrances to the campus, handing out leaflets to people arriving at the university. They held placards declaring "Quality education deserves fair pay and conditions" and "Workload not overload".

During the negotiations, a partial agreement was reached between university management and the union's enterprise bargaining team. The union offered that members would teach a yearly average of 780 hours over two years. When vice-chancellor Gerard Sutton heard of the deal, he demanded that "no numbers" appear in the workload clause.

Few classes were held during the strike. The media officer for the university reported that "half the staff" turned up for work.

The Illawarra Mercury on July 28 interpreted the word "staff" to mean "academics", and splashed across page two the headline "Half uni academics work despite strike". This was disputed by NTEU branch president Michael Morrissey, who said that at least 90% of academic staff struck.

The most recent bargaining meeting between university management and the NTEU failed to break the deadlock. The union has pledged two weeks of peace before taking further action and has demanded that the vice-chancellor participate directly in the negotiations.

The NTEU has warned that longer strikes may be necessary if management does not come up with a reasonable offer.