By Tyrion Perkins
SYDNEY — Staff at the University of Sydney held a strike on March 1, the first day of classes, over enterprise bargaining.
Management has proposed a wage rise of just 1.75%, way below the inflation rate, and wants numerous concessions on employment conditions, which both the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Community and Public Sector Union find unacceptable.
Management claims it cannot afford a higher wage rise because of inadequate government funding. Funding has been cut over the last few years, and universities told cope by becoming more "efficient".
At a stop-work meeting on February 17, NTEU president Carol Allport described how by international standards the Australian university system is already extremely efficient, according to the government's own advisory body. "By the year 2000, funding will be back to 1990 levels while ... student numbers [will] have risen from 460,000 to 670,000", she said.
The unions have two targets: to get the government to properly fund education and to put pressure on management to allocate more of the funds it receives to wages. The unions believe management purposely excluded funds for pay increases from its budget.
Management at the University of NSW has offered even less. Its original offered nothing, but when it realised staff were going to strike, it offered a 1% rise, but with reduced conditions. UNSW staff struck for 48 hours on March 1 and 2.