Staff at the University of NSW took industrial action on March 11 in response to stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is seeking a pay rise of 3.5%, employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and greater job security, including opportunities for permanence for casual staff, some of whom have been employed on a casual basis for many years.
Classes were cancelled for the day and about 100 NTEU members and students picketed six gates around the campus.
Speakers addressed a lunchtime rally at the main gate including NTEU UNSW branch president Sarah Gregson, NTEU NSW Secretary Genevieve Kelly, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Greens candidate for Heffron Osman Faruqi and UNSW Education Officer Cara Egan.
After 18 months of bargaining, NTEU members voted to strike over a failure of the university to offer adequate gains on issues such as pay and pathways to secure work for casual staff.
Gregson said: “After a year and a half staff have had enough. Our members work extremely hard. They are often at the forefront in their areas of research and care deeply about learning outcomes for students. We want the university to recognise this in the way it treats and compensates staff.
“With almost 50% of the work in the university sector now being undertaken by casual workers and uncertainty about the future in a potentially deregulated environment, it is crucial that bargaining is concluded so we can get on with doing our jobs with a little more certainty about where we stand. Surely that is something that the university can get behind.”
Former NTEU UNSW branch president and Socialist Alliance candidate for Summer Hill Susan Price took part in the picket. She told Green Left Weekly: “UNSW has form in not negotiating in good faith with the union. It’s reminiscent of the bad old days under [former vice-chancellor] Fred Hilmer.
“The demands staff are making are reasonable and I hope university management will move quickly to negotiate with staff.”