NTEU members struck and rallied at James Cook Universities’ two larger campuses in Townsville and Cairns, joining the union’s nationwide campaign. Jonathan Strauss reports.
James Cook University
Staff and students at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville and Cairns have refused to accept course and job cuts proposed by the university’s management.
The highlight of the campaign was a 120-strong student-led rally on April 30 at the Cairns campus, the largest student protest action in more than a decade at JCU. Students also joined the community protests called by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) branch on April 27.
The Queensland parliament has given its stamp of approval to another corporatisation measure for universities on October 10. A new law reduces staff and student representation on university councils or senates and changes other parts of the seven universities’ power structures in favour of management.
University managements, headed by their vice-chancellors, have been pushing for years for their governing bodies to have less staff and student representation. These are the elected members of the councils.
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.
Less than a week after federal education minister Simon Birmingham urged universities to follow the example of Murdoch University in West Australia in terminating its enterprise agreement (EA), vice chancellors at another two universities launched actions designed to undermine staff unions and collective bargaining.