Progressive, grassroots activism was the winner in a tightly contested Branch Committee (BC) and National Council (NC) election of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Sydney (USyd).
Rank-And-File Action (RAFA) secured four positions on the BC. David Brophy won the Academic Vice President position and Finola Laughren won the casuals’ representative position. RAFA was also elected to three NTEU NC positions.
RAFA, a rank-and-file group of academic, professional, casual, fixed term and permanent staff from across the university, campaigned for a democratic workplace where staff and students have a real role in shaping education and research.
RAFA received 43% (193 first-preference votes) winning 7 out of 15 positions. The Thrive ticket won 31% and Fightback won 26%.
RAFA’s campaign focussed on member-led activism, emphasising well-prepared strike action being the best way to achieve a good outcome for university workers. It organised a number of forums to discuss its approach, including on how to “de-neoliberalise” higher education.
RAFA members played a leading role in building four days of strike action at USyd this year. Its members are working to prepare for another 48-hour strike on October 13–14.
More strikes are necessary because, after more than a year of enterprise bargaining, management is still refusing to agree on job security for professional and academic staff, enforceable targets for First Nations people’s employment, decasualisation, an end to wage theft, a real pay rise and retaining academic staff’s right to undertake research.
RAFA’s success signals union members’ strong desire for progressive, non-sectarian voices to lead the industrial campaign.
“We take this [election result] as a strong endorsement of RAFA’s vision of a member-led, fighting branch,” a RAFA member tweeted. “Our task now is to strengthen our EA campaign and build the best possible strike in October.”
Meanwhile, Anastasia Kanjere, who stood for General Secretary for A New NTEU, received 43% of the vote. Indicative of member discontent, the positions of General Secretary, National President and National Assistant secretary were challenged for only the second time in the NTEU’s history.
The vote for A New NTEU expressed a widespread desire for a transparent, more democratic approach.