UNSW dispute: Staff and student anger grows

July 16, 2010
NTEU UNSW. Photo: Becstarr/Flickr

Read letters of support to UNSW staff.

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On July 7, members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) started receiving letters from the university that said they had been stood down without pay for imposing a ban on the recording and transmission of student results to the university.

The union imposed the bans after negotiations with university representatives failed to make progress on improving job security, pay and other conditions for UNSW staff.

Green Left Weekly understands that about 80 NTEU members have received these notices so far.

Shocked and angered at the university’s actions, students, former students and activists have been mobilising in support of UNSW staff in their hundreds. Blogs and Facebook pages that have sprouted up across the web.

But the anger and protest isn’t confined to the internet. In a development welcomed by the NTEU, the UNSW Student Representative Council (SRC) has organised a protest on July 20 at UNSW’s Kensington campus.

NTEU UNSW branch president, Susan Price told GLW that union members were encouraged by the level of support. “The solidarity shown to our members by the SRC, by colleagues and students on other university campuses around the country, has had a huge impact on morale, especially on those who have been stood down without pay for nearly two weeks now”, Price said.

“Our local hardship fund has already raised over $20,000 from staff and supporters, and this is only just getting started.

“It shows how widespread the anger is out there over the actions by university management, and, in particular the stance taken by the vice chancellor [Fred Hilmer] towards staff.”

The NTEU has escalated its industrial campaign with the imposition of the bans. The university administration has been thrown into chaos and UNSW faces the prospect of a disruptive start to teaching for second semester because of the decision to stand down staff without pay.

Hilmer has agreed to meet union representatives on July 19, due to the NTEU campaign. Hilmer in the past has refused to debate the issues publicly with the NTEU. He hasn’t attended a negotiating meeting with the union for more than two years.

NTEU members will meet on July 20 to hear a report from the meeting between the union and Hilmer and to discuss the bans.

The NTEU has not ruled out further industrial action, particularly if university management continues to refuse to negotiate with the union on reinstating limits on the use of fixed-term employment, now enshrined in the new award for higher education staff.

[For more information, and to find out how to support the campaign, visit the NTEU UNSW webpage.]

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