Staff at Sydney University from the NTEU and CPSU held their fifth successful day of strike action this year on 5 June as they face off against the aggressive anti-union management of hated Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence.
After conceding to several union demands in bargaining meetings, management finally made their first offer on pay—an insulting 2.5 per cent. The figure actually amounts to less, as staff have not had any pay rise since last year. It would mean a real pay cut. They arrogantly declared all the items previously agreed would be off the table unless staff accepted this offer.
Previously, the campaign has beaten back a number of management’s outrageous efforts to attack union rights, slash sick leave and abolish restrictions on working hours. Management’s zig-zagging shows two things. One is that the strikes are having an impact. Two is that until management sign an agreement for decent wages, job security, fair review processes and basic union rights, the industrial campaign must continue and deepen.
Management still want to take away the union office on campus, have not agreed to link new permanent jobs for casuals to reducing the overall level of casualisation and have not guaranteed fair review committees for staff who face losing their jobs.
Support for the latest strike, held in the last week of semester, remained strong. Once again the police violently attacked pickets, targeting student activists in two separate rounds of arrests at the Carillon Avenue gate. In all 11 students were arrested—for no more than holding up traffic so picketers could talk to cars as they entered and try to convince them to turn around.
The NTEU has committed to escalating the campaign, with the threat of multiple days of strike action in the first weeks of semester two, a protest at the University Senate meeting on 1 July and action to disruption Open Day in August.
With over 380 new members having joined the union since the start of the year, including 125 casual staff, staff are well placed to win.