‘SOMething rotten’ at Sydney University, say staff

Protest against Sydney University management's operating model. Photo: NTEU NSW/FB

Under the banner of “SOMething Rotten” Sydney University staff, including members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), as well as students protested against university management's Sydney Operating Model (SOM) on August 14.

Former employee and Aboriginal activist Jeremy Heathcote, who gave an Acknowledgement of Country, told the rally: “We are angry with the way the university has been managed. We called this rally SOMething Rotten because a lot of the things the university has been doing are emanating from the university’s Sydney Operating Model.”

“We thought this was a nice literary way to tie the rally together. It comes from the line in Hamlet 'something is rotten in the state of Denmark’, which was a comment on moral and political corruption in Denmark.

“We think there is moral and political corruption at Sydney University too.”

NTEU branch president Kurt Ivenson noted that management had been attacking jobs and conditions for many years.

Ivenson said: “In the Faculty of Medicine and Health, there is a massive change program underway. One hundred and sixty five people in that change process have not been mapped into roles. That means they will not have a job at the end of it unless something changes.”

NTEU branch committee member Alma Torlakovic, who co-chaired the rally, said: “Sydney University management continues to roll out Change Proposals that are hundreds of pages long, often inaccurate and hard to understand, even if you are one of the staff members that is affected.

“Ultimately, SOM is about cutting costs: It aims to get the remaining staff to take on the work of those who have been sacked.”

CPSU branch president Grant Wheeler noted SOM has another year to run. He told the crowd: “I recently did an audit of the University job alert service. If we take January, when we expect more jobs to be advertised than normal, I found that in January 2016, three years before SOM, there were approximately 58% more advertisements for fixed term contracts than continuing positions.

“Jump forward to January 2019, there were 368% more fixed term positions advertised that continuing positions.”

Wheeler pointed to the hypocrisy of Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s $1.5 million pay cheque while a third of staff are casual or on short fixed-term contracts.

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