A spirited action against the commodification of education on April 13 outside Sydney University’s Fisher Library heard from staff and students.
The national day of action was called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and endorsed by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) New South Wales division. It coincided with a number of NSW universities entering into bargaining over new enterprise bargaining agreements for staff.
Luc Velez, NUS National Education Officer chaired the action. Lia Perkins, the Student Representative Council’s Education Officer at Sydney University condemned management’s course cuts and staff cuts saying students support staff taking industrial action.
Jen Hutch, a professional staff member, told the rally that the NTEU had “uncovered an average of $19,000 a year in wage theft for staff”.
Nick Reimer, NTEU Sydney University branch president said: “We have a union membership of almost 2000 at Sydney University. Our members are sick of wage theft, casualisation, bullying by management and overwork. We are doing something about it … an overwhelming number — 78% — took part in the Protected Action Ballot to authorise industrial action, with 96% voting in favour of action.”
Dani Cotton, from Sydney University’s Casuals Network, spoke about the partial victory won by unionists for gender transition leave for transgender staff. Sydney University management conceded one-off leave for gender affirmation last October.
Jeremy Heathcote, an NTEU branch member, spoke about the need for a “genuine commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait employment targets”. He said “Only 1.1% of staff here are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, yet management targets are 3%.”
NTEU President Alison Barnes and Shovan Bhattarai, a student officer from the University of New South Wales, also spoke.
Andrew Chuter, a casual tutor at Sydney University, told Green Left that it was important for staff to take action as “staff teaching conditions are student’s learning conditions”.