This week there are two important things happening on campus. On Wednesday, the NTEU (the union representing staff at usyd) will be striking for 24 hours.
This is due to the university’s refusal to improve the working conditions and pay of staff. Striking is a way for staff members to exercise their power by withholding their labour. It puts pressure on university management to meet the key demands of the NTEU and treat our staff with the respect they deserve.
It’s important that as students we acknowledge the contribution that our staff make to the university community. Our learning conditions are directly shaped by the working conditions of our staff. Cuts to the pay and conditions of our staff means less face to face teaching time, more overcrowded tutorials and lectures, and overworked staff who will have less time to mark our work and provide detailed feedback.
We need to support our staff to put even more pressure on the university. Our staff have the best interests of students at heart and we should have their back in return. So on Wednesday join the strike and don’t go to class, visit the picket line to show your teachers some support and join the rally at 1pm.
The second important thing happening this week is the beginning of the SRC elections. I know that most of you are probably groaning at the thought of overly enthusiastic people in coloured shirts trying to talk to you on your walk to class in the morning but hear me out.
The SRC is yours. We exist to represent you, to fight for your rights and we’re funded by your money through SSAF. You deserve a say in who runs the SRC in order to ensure that they are working in your best interests. I encourage everyone to read over the policies of the candidates running for election, visit their Facebook pages, and have a chat to a campaigner on eastern ave. Most importantly I encourage you all to find a polling booth and vote on the 19 th -21 st of September.
General Secretaries’ Report
Daniel Ergas & Isabella Pytka
You’ll be reading this either the day before, the day of, or a day or two after your teachers and staff strike. So we thought that this could be a useful cheat sheet to get you up-to-speed with what you can do to help.
Why is there a strike? First things first – what even is a strike? A strike is when people collectively refuse to work until their employers grant them fair working conditions. On strike days, the striking staff (who take leave without pay for the day) form picket lines – ie. congregate at Uni entrances – and ask other staff, and all students, not to come onto campus that day, to show the Uni their strength and resolve. It is vital that you do not cross that picket line.
This strike has been precipitated by the need for a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between the University management and its staff. The University has offered staff a real wage cut, and refused to extend standard conditions to tutors (casual staff), such as sick leave. As a result, the staff union (the National Tertiary Education Union, or NTEU) balloted its members – ie. literally sent a ballot to their home addresses – and the staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action (above 90%).
Why does this affect you? As we covered in our last report, staff working conditions are student learning conditions – it is pretty obvious, for example, that if your tutors are overworked (and unable to even take sick leave) the quality of your education will suffer. You accrue the benefits of a stronger staff negotiating presence.
So what can you do about it? If you’re reading this the day before the strike (ie. Tuesday, Sept 12) – message your lecturers and tutors, and let them know you support them, and their industrial action; message your mates, and make sure they know what’s going on. You should join us on the picket lines that next morning!
If you’re reading this the day of – what are you doing?! If you’re not already on the pickets, get there; and join us for the rally at 1pm. (And take a picture with the people’s rat, Scabby. We love you, ETU Victoria.)
If it’s the days after the strikes – don’t worry, there will likely be more strike action for you to get involved in. We’d love it if you signed the petition Daniel’s been working on to force the USU to support our teachers’ fight, and close in solidarity on strike days – which is accessible at form.jotform.co/danielergas/ourUSU.