Sydney universities strike

March 10, 1999

Sydney universities strike

By Tyrion Perkins

SYDNEY — A National Tertiary Education Union members' meeting at Sydney University on March 3 resolved to test the vice-chancellor Gavin Brown's recent promise to speed up enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) negotiations by asking management to withdraw proposed attacks on employees' conditions.

The attacks include reduction of sick leave entitlements and restrictions on taking long service leave, an increased span of ordinary working hours for general staff, including Saturdays, speeding-up of academic redundancies, more stringent grievance procedures and changes to nine-day fortnight. The meeting resolved that if no agreement is made by March 17, members will consider strike action on March 18.

The unionists believe progress has been made in their EBA campaign since a decision to strike on March 1 to protest against management's below-inflation 1.75% pay increase offer and proposals to slash conditions. After the strike decision, Brown moved to meet with union representatives and gave assurances that the process would be sped up.

The 24-hour NTEU strike on March 1 involved pickets by unionists at all entrances to the university. Student representatives joined them to show support.

The Community and Public Sector Union, which covers some general staff, struck for only half a day. Its members were put in the awkward position of being absent from work or crossing the picket line.

Following the success of the strike, and a similar one at the University of NSW on March 1 and 2, there are indications that the vice-chancellors, who have been using the excuse of falling government funding to pressure unionists in negotiations, are now pressuring the federal government for more funding.

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