Uni staff fight restructuring
By Alex Bainbridge
MELBOURNE — Office, library, cleaning and maintenance staff at Melbourne University struck over award restructuring on March 19 as part of a national campaign of rolling strikes. Almost all the 1100 workers, covered by three unions, observed the stoppage.
The ACTU is involved in discussions with the Colleges and University Staff Association (ACUSA) and the State Public Service Federation (SPSF) over reforms to the current situation in which higher education staff are covered by about 100 awards. The other affected union is the Miscellaneous Workers Union (FMWU), which covers cleaners.
The employer body, AHEIA, wants to reduce existing "paid rates" to a "minimum rate" plus an over-award payment. This could cost many workers between $2000 and $5000 because the over-award payment would not be guaranteed, and could be cut at a later date.
While academic staff were exempted from the strike, some cancelled classes, and most refused to cross picket lines or do general staff work. Many invited ACUSA or SPSF representatives to address classes. About 50% of classes were cancelled.
Activity leading up to the strike resulted in about 50 library staff joining the unions, and about 360 people attended a strike meeting called by the SPSF, a "fantastic turn-out" according to Andy Blunden of the union's higher education section.
Management was able to open the library for only two hours due to protests by students and union members. At a 300-strong meeting on March 20, students and staff pledged mutual support for continuing struggles around the award and general education cutbacks.
Students are planning a National Day of Action on March 26 under the slogan "Education for All". Contact the National Union of Students in your city for further information.
Further action is also planned by ACUSA and the SPSF. "Until the employers are willing to guarantee a decent award rate of pay, the industrial action will continue," ACUSA industrial officer Ken McAlpine told Green Left Weekly.