More than 150 staff and students at the University of Melbourne (UoM) supported a 24-hour strike on June 21 over a management plan to fund a staff pay rise using their superannuation.
Organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the action took place just hours after the University Council proposed that permanent and fixed term staff would be able to divert 6% of their existing 17% super payments to their base pay instead.
The minimum government superannuation contribution is only 10.5%, rising to 11% on July 1.
The NTEU has been pushing for a new enterprise agreement since the last one expired 10 months ago.
One speaker declared that the “University of Melbourne … [are] raiding our super for a pay rise to compensate for a cost-of-living crisis … We are not demanding $1.5 million pay rises”, a reference to many Victorian chancellors taking more than $1 million last year, and three receiving pay rises greater than $100,000.
Even the Australian Financial Review seemed alarmed, reporting on an email sent by deputy vice chancellor Pip Nicholson to an affected staff member arguing the offer reflected “the current economic climate” and higher costs of living.
The protesters marched from UoM campus, across Swanston Street, to a UoM Council meeting where they continued the protest, speaking about casualisation, job insecurity and growing workloads.
“Our workload is unsustainable,” one person said. “We won’t let [UoM] function while those that make the decisions continue to ignore us … that’s why I’ll go on strike again and again and again.”
In response to management’s divide and rule tactics, calls for solidarity between students and the staff were made. “Support the staff when they take action by any means necessary,” one speaker said. “We’re not going to let the university say [the strike action] harms students … students benefit from it. We have a united interest in fighting for a better university.”