The University of Sydney Branch Committee of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) endorsed a motion to raise the union’s wage claim to the Cost Price Index (CPI) plus 2.5 per cent per year. The motion responds to skyrocketing costs of living and a headline inflation rate of 5.1 per cent. The Head of the Reserve Bank has warned that inflation could be as high as 7 per cent by the end of the year.
The motion was moved by Branch Committee members Alma Torlakovic and Jen Huch-Hoogvliet, both members of NTEU Fightback who initiated an open letter in late March to increase the union’s wage claim. The NTEU’s current claim has been under inflation with the union seeking 15% over 3.5 years, equating to just 4.28% per year, a cut in real terms.
The motion adopted on Friday reads:
“This meeting of the branch committee members at University of Sydney recommends to the membership that our wage claim for the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement 2021-2024 be changed to CPI plus 2.5% per year, for the life of the agreement and that this be endorsed at the next members meeting.”
Alma Torlakovic told Honi: “a ‘pay rise’ less than the increase to the CPI will be a pay cut in real terms. As the price of everything, from petrol to vegetables keeps going up, workers should not settle for anything less than a genuine pay rise. We should not have to go backwards when inflation continues to increase and the bosses register record profits. To win our demands, more strikes are needed in Semester 2.”
Jen Huch-Hoogvliet additionally told Honi that the pay rise is deserved: “Universities faced quite a dire situation in the pandemic with their major revenue stream cut off and no financial help from the government. They put this to workers and basically told us we have to work some magic if we all want jobs at the end of this. So we did. And universities did much better than expected. Inflation has risen sharply and the meagre pay rises we have been getting are just not going to cut it.”
Recent strikes have occurred in the context of worsening quality of life for workers. Soaring prices of energy, fuel and household goods are being passed onto ordinary people. Power prices are expected to surge by up to 18 per cent in NSW. Meanwhile, real wages for workers are expected to decline by 3 per cent, with workers in the public sector and at the University of Sydney both being offered ‘pay rises’ that fail to keep up with the cost of living.
Despite increasing inflation, businesses have continued to profit. In May, it was revealed that Sydney University recorded a $1.04 billion surplus in 2021. Yet, Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott and university management continue to claim that they cannot afford to offer workers at Sydney University a pay rise above inflation. In reality, this means a pay cut for the staff who make the University run. Meanwhile, Scott is on a salary of $1.14 million.
Sydney University SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin said: “Management have a billion dollars in reserve yet want workers to suffer. The class divide on campus could not be more clear. It’s vital that students yet again show up at any future strikes and picket lines, to show that they back staff in their struggle against the corporate university.”
The motion calls for the new pay claim to be presented for endorsement at the next Syd NTEU Branch members’ meeting.