Student Centre shifts cancelled because of planned pro-staff protest

The University justified this to staff on the basis of ‘safety’, implying the protest — in support of Student Centre workers — poses a danger to Student Centre workers.

University of Sydney management have this week cancelled a large number of Student Centre casual shifts for tomorrow, encouraging the small number of remaining staff to work from home, in anticipation of a planned protest against the University’s spill-and-fill of Student Centre jobs.

The majority of HEO4 casual staff, whose contracts expire on 31 March and will not be renewed, were informed yesterday evening that their shifts on Thursday 23 March were cancelled. The Student Centre student card team — employed on a casual basis at HEO2 classification — have also had their shifts for tomorrow cancelled. 

The Student Centre will be closed for in-person inquiries on Thursday as a result of the University’s decision. This means that ID card production, distribution activities and the satellite student centres in Fisher Library and the Brennan McCallum building will be closed. 

The University has engaged Protective Services for Thursday’s protest and may restrict access to the Jane Foss Russell building.

In an email to staff today, Head of Student Administration Services Leah Hill, justified this to SAS staff on the basis of ‘safety’, implying the protest — in support of student centre workers — poses a danger to student centre workers. 

University management denies that they are replacing existing casual HEO4 Student Centre Assistants with new casual Student Centre Assistants who would receive a lower rate of pay under the HEO3 classification. However, Student Centre management did advertise for ‘Student Centre Assistant’ positions to be employed at HEO3 level. For reasons not made clear, the advertisement has been deactivated.

Members of the NTEU believe that multiple aspects of the Student Management’s ongoing workplace restructure are in breach of the Enterprise Agreement between the NTEU and the University. The University of Sydney denies this. 

In a statement to Honi, NTEU USyd Branch President Nick Riemer said that “Management should be valuing its casual employees by giving them first go at any new jobs. Not doing so is a clear sign of their lack of commitment to job-security. Their ridiculous fear-mongering about a small protest shows that they are unable to take any criticism.

“It’s high time that managers made themselves accountable for their decisions. The NTEU will leave no stone unturned to secure a fair outcome for our members in the Student Centre.”

The University of Sydney said in a statement, “the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community is our highest priority and in response to planned protest activity on campus, the Student Centre will be closed for in-person enquiries today. A number of staff are working remotely and some staff were not required to work during the closure.” 

This article has been updated to include the University of Sydney’s comment.