The University of Sydney Student Union (USU) has confirmed it will not shut down its commercial operations in support of the upcoming staff strikes on campus.
Last week, USyd staff who are part of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) voted to take strike action on August 26 (the university’s Open Day) and September 13.
Members of the university’s Education Action Group (EAG), which is largely comprised of student activists, have reportedly been pressuring the USU to close its commercial operations in solidarity with staff.
The USU Board voted against closing its outlets while in camera (confidentially, without media or attendees allowed) in a June meeting before the current directors had assumed their roles, USU President Courtney Thompson announced at a board meeting this afternoon.
Thompson also confirmed that the incoming board directors were given an opportunity to revisit the vote, however they chose to affirm the previous board’s decision.
When Honi asked for details of the vote count, Thompson indicated that it was by a fairly substantial majority.
The NTEU strikes are the result of negotiations between staff and university management over the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which determines staff wages and conditions for the next four years.
Thompson assured the room that the USU’s decision was not taken lightly.
“I think we can all agree that ensuring a fair EBA is important to both staff and students and in light of the importance of the issue at hand, we haven’t been careless or quick to consider the options,” Thompson said.
“As a not-for-profit organisation, our financial performance is very important. Over the past few years our reserves have been quite depleted, and we need to work towards making an operating contribution.
“If we shut down our outlets, we will lose tens of thousands of dollars, which isn’t our own money as Board Directors. We have over 200 clubs and societies, more than a handful of large-scale festivals, an art gallery and several student programs. We need to be ensuring that we are working in the best interests of 20,000 members and those who come to our venues who aren’t members yet.”
The decision has attracted strong criticism online, with former board directors Liv Ronan, Tom Raue and Marco Avena voicing their disappointment on Twitter.
Solidarity is a hard concept for some. Student union should support staff striking for fair conditions. Useless scab union indeed #usuboard https://t.co/3FZmAs07LD
— Tom Raue (@TomRaue) 25 August 2017
This is genuinely nuts and a poor (/non-existent) display of solidarity. #usuboard https://t.co/kWE7NRwU6b
— Liv Ronan 🏳️🌈 (@livronan) 25 August 2017
Thompson assured that the USU would find ways to support the NTEU strikes, including advertising the strike on their social media, and providing refreshments for the picketers.