The University of Sydney Union (USU) CEO Andrew Mills has distanced the organisation’s operations from the Board’s support of staff industrial action that is set to take place on Thursday 11 and Friday 12 May.
This comes despite a unanimous vote by the USU Board to close down the student Union and support the strike action on both days. The strike action called by the NTEU is focused on pay and working conditions ahead of EBA negotiations, with particular frustrations against casualisation and failure to protect paid research time.
“The Board has passed a motion to support the NTEU’s right to act, however we want to stress that this is the stance of the Board, not the USU as an operation,” Mills said in the email.
“We have duly considered what the right course of action [is] for USU as an organisation, considering experience from past strikes and the impact this has had on our staff and the business itself,” he said.
“However, HostCo do have an event taking place on these days which cannot be postponed and so will be going ahead.”
In a statement, SRC Education Officers Lia Perkins and Deaglan Godwin condemned USU management’s decision, calling for the organisation to cease all operations for the duration of the strike.
“The email from Andrew Mills is scabbing on workers and students at the university who are fighting against wage theft and for secure jobs,” Perkins and Godwin said.
“Staff should not be coerced to perform any work and events should not be catered for by the USU. If the USU remains open in any way on May 11, 12 and 24 it completely erodes any semblance of “union” left in the institution.”
Further, Mills notified staff who support the strike must take the period “as annual leave or leave without pay” in clear signals that USU management does not endorse the industrial action.
Mill’s email will likely embolden long-standing criticism from the Left that the USU is a corporate entity more beholden to industry stakeholders and profits rather than student interests. Mills was appointed CEO last year with a background in managing charitable organisations.
Honi is awaiting comment from USU President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat, and will update upon receiving it.