National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of Melbourne began a week of industrial action on August 28, gathering outside the Vice Chancellor’s office in the Raymond Priestley building.
The industrial action follows a four-hour stoppage in May and a 24-hour stop work in June. The union has been seeking a fair agreement with the university for more than a year.
NTEU members in the arts, laws, student services and library departments voted to strike for the whole week: law, library services and student services intend to maintain a picket line all week.
The union is demanding a just pay rise (above inflation) and for the more than 80% of staff to have a permanent contact. Currently, less than half has this.
The union is also calling for fairer workloads: that includes filling vacant positions, backfilling leave vacancies more than one week and a new 40% research and scholarship allocation for academics (on top of 40% teaching and 20% leadership and service).
As a student services worker told the picket line on August 29, he decided to go on strike “because we can’t get you appointments with student services”.
Striking workers are motivating student support, talking up the connection between staff working conditions’ impact on their learning conditions.
Mackenzie, a student and a casual worker told a speak-out: “None of us are striking because we hate our work; we are striking because we can’t do our job properly. There is a massive disconnect between what we need, as staff, and what the Vice Chancellor is giving us.”
She said student services cannot process special leave applications and academic adjustment plans because staff are so overworked and management is refusing to hire more workers.
The NTEU has had more than 20 meetings with management, which has refused to agree to secure work and manageable workloads.
Dale Smith, a law professor, told Green Left he is on strike because “12 months of negotiations was not making substantial progress on what are very reasonable claims by the union.”
Emily, a student library assistant, told Green Left she is on strike because “every staff member has a right to secure work, and the 80% secure work clause we are fighting for will fundamentally change how the university is run”.
She said strike action is important because “we all want to see the university run as a public institution and not as a corporation that earns massive profits with a hierarchical structure”.