Last Thursday, staff and students, clad in NTEU purple and SRC red, formed human barricades across all major arteries into the University. Union leaders described the strike as a “great success” and warned that there will be more to follow if University management do not address their concerns over the current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.
University spokesperson Andrew Potter told Honi Soit that the strike would not affect bargaining. “The University has already made a number of concessions during the negotiations and is waiting for the unions to also make concessions,” he said.
A rally at 12:30pm hosted a number of notable speakers. Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said the University had succeeded “off the back of the workers” and ALP Senator Doug Cameron called the proposed agreement an attack on unions.
The President of National Union of Students, Jade Tyrrell, encouraged students to join the cause. “It’s sometimes difficult to connect this strike and students’ interests…so we try to encourage students to see the long-term impacts of [these proposals].”
The demonstration was non-violent but passionate. Protesters cried at students to “leave, there’s no class today” and stopped cars to brief them on the situation, encouraging them to turn away. Many did, if only for convenience. If they chose to pass, demonstrators assertively chanted “scab” as they moved aside.
Flare-ups from angry visitors were sporadic. On a number of occasions voices were raised and frustrated drivers attempted to nudge picketers out of the way. With a riot van circling campus, the police were never far, stepping in only to resolve conflict.
The majority of classes in the Arts faculty were cancelled but many teachers in Science, Engineering, Law and Business chose to hold class. Student attendance was lower than usual but a number of students chose to cross the picket line to attend class.
In an email to students, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Derrick Armstrong assured students that they would not be penalised for not attending class. Some students disagreed. Engineering students Jonathan and Jessica said: “We have to go to class, if we don’t go, we fall behind. It’s not like we can just do readings to catch up.”
After the protesters trumpeted vuvuzelas outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office, the day came to a close, with some picketers lingering into the afternoon.
Union members will vote next week to decide on whether another 48-hour strike action will be taken.