Supporting job security, sick leave and decent salaries for the University of Sydney staff – last Thursday’s strike could not have been more justified. It was an expression of collective action by staff and students alike that university management could not steam roll those that keep this invaluable institution alive.
No major incidents occurred during the strike and many participants successfully and respectfully convinced those trying to enter the university that the rights of staff were more important than that two hour lecture that was timetabled. Such a sight was promising.
Yet, despite such respect and maturity showed, others brought an unnecessary and immature militancy along with their banners, flags and, picket cards. Shouts of ‘scab’ and ‘scum’ to those ignoring the strike became the soundtrack of the day at City Road. Anyone who ‘broke the picket line’ was labelled such and I realised that I was not exempt from such calls even though I was a supporter of the strike, simply walking through to take a photo. To inquire politely if a person knows what the strike is about is sensible; to shout such offences blatantly at anyone walking through, absurd and counter-productive.
The most concerning sight was at the City Road vehicle entrance to the university when a cyclist tried to enter and was blockaded. Attempting a detour through the gate’s pedestrian entrance, he was mobbed by protesters, had his hat thrown off his head and his bike lifted and shaken. No matter what the cause, these actions are entirely unjustified and border on assault and impeding freedom of movement. These militant protest methods are counter-productive to the cause. University management is given ammunition to use against the strike and students, or public citizens for that matter, without a strong involvement in it will never empathise. In their eyes, the victims are those ignoring the strike, when the real victims in this situation are the staff of the University of Sydney.
The actions of a mere few were tainting. While it was the minority, responsibility falls on us to discourage such ineffective and hypocritical methods.
Only then will we make progress.