Angered by the latest round of cuts, staff at Victoria University (VU) held a protest outside a university council meeting on November 2.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) national president Jeannie Rea told protesters she had worked at VU for 20 years. She said that more than 100 people have lost their jobs at VU this year, with another round of redundancies still to come.
The latest round of cuts represents an attack on NTEU branch office bearers, with three out of four officials being retrenched – just as the branch was about to start enterprise bargaining.
VU management have been a “highly antagonistic management all year”, said Rea. There’s increasing interference in the NTEU from VU and the new “criteria for employing people is union busting”.
Rea pointed out the similarity between what VU is doing and Murdoch University’s attack on its staff. Murdoch University recently terminated its enterprise agreement, allowing management to cut wages and attack conditions.
Rea said that federal education minister Simon Birmingham has been calling on VCs to “do a Murdoch”.
“The message to VU council is that you are a university council, not a corporate board. Universities are not corporations,” Rea said. “They have a mission to teach, research and work in the public interest for the public good.
“We’re calling on VU to stop and reflect on their purpose”.
NTEU VU branch president Paul Adams is one of those who has been sacked. He said that VU used to be a community university for the west of Melbourne, but was “converting into a corporation”.
He said VU is “achieving this by sacking large numbers of staff and replacing them with compliant workers. Members are threatened with the sack for distributing the union newsletter and questioning things in the university budget.
“VU has a vast legal machine to crush the union,” said Adams. He pointed out that VU used to spend $26,000 on lawyers each year – now it is spending about $1 million annually on its legal machine.
Adams asserted that VU members and students will not be bullied by VU administration. “The unions are here to stay,” he said.
“What [management] need to realise upstairs is that they can sack us, they can outlaw us, but we help each other”.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) general secretary Sally McManus also addressed the protest, warning that “if VU wants to be a poster child for union busting, they will pay for that.”
Greens Senator Janet Rice told protesters: “VU council could have stood up with the staff, students and NTEU and told the federal government ‘enough with the cuts’. Instead, it has chosen to sack workers”.