National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members, students, families and community members joined a protest on May 27 in the Wadawurrung/Ballarat CBD over an impasse in wages negotiations at Federation University.
Bargaining negotiations are stuck because management’s offer is well below others in the sector. It has offered a 2.5% a year pay rise, averaged over the three-year agreement.
Unlike some other universities, staff at Federation University have not had any administrative pay rises since December 2021. By contrast, last year the Vice Chancellor was given a 3.5% rise — around $30,000 more a year.
Resplendent in the NTEU purple, protesters heard speeches and chanted, while many passing cars honked horns in support.
NTEU branch organiser Colin Muir opened the rally by welcoming other unions, supporters from the Ballarat Trades Hall (the second oldest Trades Hall in the world) and community members.
Mathew Abbott, NTEU branch president, spoke about the union’s activism on campus and noted other unions’ solidarity. “It’s great to see workers standing together to defend their shared interests I don’t think there’s anything more powerful.”
Dr Jane Boag, one of many new local NTEU delegates, spoke eloquently about how wages and conditions of staff are the learning conditions of students.
Other speakers included Victorian NTEU Secretary Sarah Roberts and Michaela Settle, Labor MP for Eureka, and a former student of the university.
This is the fourth rally organised by the NTEU branch in Ballarat in the last 12 months, but the first to take place in the centre of the city.
With no immediate resolution in sight, it may not be the last.
[Dr Jeremy Smith is a member of the NTEU.]