By Mark Abberton
MELBOURNE — The national day of action against voluntary student unionism, which was to be held on May 5, has been moved to May 19. The decision was made by the National Union of Students (NUS) national education committee phone hook-up on April 7.
The reasons given for changing the date were that NUS national office is behind on getting out material to build the rally, that the National Tertiary Education Industry Union is more likely to give support two weeks later and that some Adelaide and ACT campuses will be on holidays in the week of May 5.
With only two days' notice, both Sydney and Melbourne cross-campus activist groups discussed the proposal and passed motions calling on NUS to stick with the original date. The May 5 date was proposed by NUS three months ago, when activist networks were deciding when to hold a national day of action. NUS chose to ignore the day suggested by activist groups around the country and set another date.
Erin Killion, a Sydney Cross Campus Education Network activist and Resistance member, stated, "It's all well and good for NUS to change the rally date if circumstances have changed, but nothing has changed, except that NUS is now considering things which it should have thought of three months ago when they called the national day of action. In many states, May 5 has already been announced, so because of this mistake we're going to confuse students."
In Melbourne the Student Unionism Network (SUN) decided to continue organising for May 5, but will also build the rally on May 19. SUN activists were confused about why NUS changed the date out of the blue, just as plans to build the momentum already demonstrated on March 31 were about to be implemented.
Because some of the reasons given by NUS are valid, activist networks around the country are likely to support changing the rally to May 19 and organise stunt or campus-based actions for May 5.
In the future, if NUS is going to call a national day of action, it should ensure it is prepared well in advance and conduct decisions in a far more democratic way, like considering the opinions of cross-campus activist networks and not making a decision when most campuses are still on holidays. To be successful, a national day of action requires the support of activists, and this means real consultation between NUS and activist groups.
[Mark Abberton is the RMIT TAFE education officer and a member of Resistance].