Sydney Uni staff strike for secure work, better student outcomes

On the picket line at the University of Sydney. Photo: NTEU/Facebook

Teaching staff at the University of Sydney are striking for two days, May 11–12, for secure work and better conditions in their enterprise bargaining agreement.

A sign that university management is refusing to concede on important work rights, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has been trying to negotiate a new agreement since last August.

Staff and students established a strong picket line at all the campus entrances on May 11, turning away people and cars seeking to enter the university in the morning. However, most staff and students were supporting the strike action and stayed away.

For weeks the NTEU has been explaining that the union had “made progress” on some issues but that management is opposing, and “even refused to engage on our most important claims”.

They are: an end to forced redundancies; enforceable controls on workload for all staff; preservation of the right to a 40% research component in academic workloads; an end to exploitative long-term casualisation; recognition and improvement of work-from-home rights for professional staff; an end to disruptive change management and performance review practices; enforceable targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment; and fair pay rises.

A large NTEU members’ meeting on April 28 voted to start an industrial campaign, beginning with the two-day strike.

The union said if progress is not made in negotiations, it would organise another strike and pickets on May 24 just before National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week focused on First Nations’ employment rights.

At a picket line on May 11, NTEU banners read: “Job security, decent pay, reasonable workloads.”

One staff member told the picket line: “As an early career academic, my future was effectively put on hold. This is just the tip of the iceberg: there is now a mass casualisation of the university workforce, as part of a process of casualisation of the whole workforce. This university operates because we all work for free!”

Another staff member said: “We are fighting to decasualise this university as management is cutting out the pathways to permanency.” She sent solidarity to “all the other workers striking for fair pay and conditions including aged care workers, nurses, teachers, transport workers and council staff”.

Placards held by strikers and supporters declared: “Casuals deserve secure jobs”; “No paid leave, no respect, no future”; “Real targets for First Nations employment” and “For a real pay rise”.

[Click for more information about the NTEU’s campaign. Join the picket line on May 12.]