Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and students held a protest outside Sydney University's Student Centre on May 3.
The demonstration was held in the context of the current round of enterprise bargaining (EB), in which union members are campaigning for improved job security and better conditions for permanent and casual staff. Perhaps nowhere in the university are these issues more serious than in the Student Centre.
“One of our important goals in this EB round is more secure work and fairer working conditions for casuals,” said Associate Professor Kurt Iveson, president of the Sydney NTEU branch.
“The hardworking and efficient staff in the Student Centre play a crucial role in handling enquiries from current and prospective students. But a chaotic and punitive senior management culture there has made their working lives very difficult.”
According to the NTEU, key problems include a gross overuse of casual contracts where work is on-going; intense overwork, including pressure on many staff to work overtime and weekends to clear backlogs that are no fault of their own; job insecurity, including last minute management decisions about work availability and short-term contracts; and constant structural change and high levels of staff turnover.
“We’ve made any number of representations to management, but the situation isn’t improving,” said Iveson.
"As a result, NTEU members have organised this ‘no more toxic workplaces’ event to publicly draw attention to mismanagement, abuse of staff rights and the resulting cost to staff and students alike. We want an end to the punitive management culture, and proper jobs and conditions for the staff who do such a fantastic job, but who university management has just been treating as disposable.”