Sixteen universities across the country were hit by 24-hour strikes on Wednesday September 16. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) stepped up its nationwide campaign for 4–6% pay rises, increased job security and less casualisation after universities failed to meet their demands.
By SP reporters, Melbourne
Many universities are using the economic crisis and a possible slowdown in international student revenue as an excuse to drive down wages and reduce conditions. The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association director Ian Argall, who represents 30 universities, said: “Increasing costs on universities, and putting constraints on them at this time, is very dangerous.”
The reality is that improving staff conditions only improves the standard of education being delivered. This is far from dangerous as it benefits staff, students, and society as a whole.
Australian universities are increasingly using casualisation and fixed-term contracts to achieve workforce ‘flexibility’, while increasing staff-student ratios and staff workloads. At the same time many universities are shedding jobs, such as at the University of Melbourne where they plan to sack 220 staff.
The 24-hour stoppage in September follows earlier industrial action at Victorian universities in May, and more recent strikes in NSW and Tasmania. ACT and some other NSW universities are currently balloting to take ‘protected industrial action’ set for October.
The strike proved successful in pushing many universities into agreements, including James Cook University and Sydney University in the days leading up to the September action. Negotiations are continuing at other sites.
The strike was definitely a step forward in the campaign, but it has to be said that it could have been even more successful if it was better prepared. Some of the material produced by the NTEU was vague and in most cases there was no attempt to get students to support the action.
Students and staff have common interests and more needs to be done to build links between the NTEU and student unions. We urge all students and staff on campus to work towards this aim.
For more information about the NTEU campaign visit: http://universitybargaining.com.au/