Sydney University staff have successfully shut down campus as part of their ongoing enterprise bargaining campaign today (March 26). The two-day strike, by members of the National Tertiary Education Union and Community and Public Sector Union, is continuing tomorrow.
The university administration is trying to drastically cut conditions and refuse the union's wage claims. The administration is trying to remove limits on casualisation, and undermine academic freedom and the unions ability to organise on campus.
The success of the strike came despite repeated unprovoked attacks by police on strikers.
The overwhelmingly majority of classes were cancelled on the first day of the 48 hour strike. Staff and students staffed picket lines at all entrances to the university. Students have largely stayed away from campus, and the normally thriving avenues were sparsely populated.
The response from both staff and students, and the disruption to the university, clearly show most staff and students reject the attacks from the administration and support the campaign to defend the quality of education at USyd.
What few classes were held were often interrupted by a "roaming picket"organised by student supporters of the strike. Up to 100 students and supporters took part in the roaming picket, which took over several lecture theatures.
The picketers explained to students in these lectures why they should support the protest actions. These lectures (already noticeably under attended) were peacefully abandoned by both staff and the students involved.
Outrageously, this industrial dispute between the administration and the staff union has now resulted in several violent police attacks. With no provokation, peaceful protestors engaging in legal picket activity have been violently assaulted on at least two occasions.
At roughly 8 am, more than a dozen members of the NSW "Public Order and Riot" Squad made an unprovoked charged on students and staff who were staffing a picket line at the Universities main entrance on City Road.
No arrests were made, but several picketers were manhandled and harrassed as police tried to clear vehicle entrances. Shortly after the incident, police themselves prevented vehical access by parking a police vehicle in the entrance way.
Then at 10am, police violently assaulted and arrested several protesters who were taking part in the roaming picket action. Students and supporters were in a lecture theature talking to other students to ask them to join the strike action, when members of the riot squad entered the room and started forcefully removing strikers under the pretext of tresspass.
Some of those assaulted were released, but at least five were arrested. It is unclear what they have been charged with.
The actions of police have no other purpose than to intimidate staff and students involved in this campaign. The strikers showed they were not cowed by the bid to silence their protest.
Instead, strikers have resolved to continue strike action and to continue to build student and community support. The resolution to this industrial action requires an end to the administration's attacks on staff and the quality of education.
[For more information on the strike, see the Sydney NTEU's "FAQs on the strike".]
Below photos by Peter Boyle:
Photos by Alexa Kapust: