NTEU staff strike, picket at UWS Parramatta

October 23, 2013
The union says university management is aggressively trying to water down the rights of staff. Photo: Jim McIlroy.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of Western Sydney, Parramatta South campus, staged a half-day strike and picket at the university on October 23.

Staff picketed the main entrance to the campus and persuaded many vehicles trying to enter the university to turn away, despite harassment by security guards.

Union members are angry at the refusal of UWS management to engage in serious enterprise bargaining on a new EBA for the university. The NTEU has been in talks with the UWS representatives, Maddocks law firm, since March this year, with no positive result.

According to an NTEU statement, "UWS management is aggressively trying to water down the rights of staff, including those dealing with redundancy entitlements, job security, flex leave and workloads. Importantly, staff have not received a salary increase since May 2012 and many are finding that the increased cost of living, especially for housing in Sydney, means they are greatly disadvantaged in relation to colleagues in other cities.

"UWS management claims to be trying to reach agreement. NTEU branch president Jan Falloon is dismissive of this claim. 'The university has hired a team of lawyers, at considerable cost to the taxpayer, who are unable to make decisions at the table. Our members are growing increasingly dissatisfied a the lack of progress of negotiations. It is over 12 months since the agreement expired, yet not one substantial clause has been agreed.'

"Students are also concerned. Over 1000 students at one campus alone [Bankstown] signed a petition calling on the vice-chancellor to negotiate with staff to provide appropriate conditions. Many students are well aware that staff conditions directly impact on the quality of student learning conditions.

"Increasing workloads, high levels of casualisation and the cuts to courses over the last 12 months has led to increasing frustration amongst staff and students. It is this frustration and lack of movement at the bargaining table that has led staff to take this action.

"If nothing happens in response to Wednesday's action, a further half-day strike is planned for October 30, with pickets at Bankstown campus. 'And, if necessary,' Falloon said, 'we will take industrial action right through summer as the university launches its new Summer Semester study opportunities to undergraduate students,'" the NTEU statement concluded.

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