University staff ramp up industrial campaign

September 16, 2017
Staff at Sydney University went on strike for 24 hours on September 13.

Staff at James Cook University in northern Queensland — at least half of whom are employed casually, and often infrequently — have rejected a management proposal for an enterprise agreement at the university. Of the 54% of staff who voted, 58% voted against the proposal in the non-union ballot held over September 13–15.

National Tertiary Education Union members mobilised in the brief one-week consultation and balloting period to secure a vote nearly three times their own numbers.

This was despite management attacks on free speech around the vote. Contract security and cleaning staff were ordered to take down posters opposing management and union emails to staff were deleted. In turn, round after round of management meetings and emails might have backfired as staff detected how far out of touch the senior executives were with work and life for most university staff.

The union now hopes to make a significant step forward in organising. Meanwhile, it stands on guard for new "nuclear option" moves, such as an attempt at enterprise agreement termination, by management, if the latter will not return to bargaining.

Staff at Sydney University went on strike for 24 hours on September 13, on the back of a successful campaign to thwart a non-union ballot,. The action was widely supported by staff and students.

The action was taken by members of the NTEU representing most staff at the university as part of its campaign for improved job security and better conditions for casual staff. It was also in response to the advertising of teaching-only jobs and a management pay offer that would leave staff pay packets lagging behind cost of living increases.

Picket lines were established on several gates from 7am until lunchtime, when about 200 staff and students gathered outside Fischer Library for a protest rally and march to the Chancellory.

Meanwhile, Western Sydney University NTEU members met on September 14 and resolved to take half-day strike action on September 20 in pursuit of their claims for secure jobs and decent pay.

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