Staff at two Sydney universities have taken steps towards industrial action just days after the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) USyd Branch participated in a 48-hour strike. These are the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Western Sydney University (WSU).
The WSU NTEU branch voted on Friday to take strike action in three weeks time, while NTEU members at UTS applied for a protected action ballot order with the Fair Work Commission on Saturday. A protected action ballot is a secret ballot that allows employees to vote on whether to initiate protected industrial action, such as a strike.
“At both WSU and UTS, our members have been negotiating for new enterprise agreements for over nine months. At UTS, management have failed to meet our claims around job security, limits to workplace restructuring, protections against over-work and a fair pay rise, so NTEU members have applied for the right to take protected industrial action,” NTEU NSW Secretary Damien Cahill said.
“At WSU, while negotiations have been progressing well, management have given an unacceptable low pay offer of 2% [per annum] and have not agreed to enforceable decasualisation provisions. NTEU members have therefore voted to take strike action,” said Cahill.
Students have also lent their support for staff. In a statement to Honi, UTS Students’ Association President Anna Thieben said: “The UTSSA completely supports the UTS NTEU’s unanimous decision to apply for a protected action ballot. Their fight for job security and improved working conditions is our fight too as it will directly improve the quality of our education.”
This comes off the back of a historic cross-campus 48-hour strike at the University of Sydney, which saw staff at the traditionally conservative Conservatorium of Music (a USyd satellite campus) join the action for the first time.
“Last week’s 48-hour strike at the University of Sydney is likely to be the first of many over the coming year if uni managements around the country continue to ignore the voices of their staff,” said Cahill.
“Rampant managerialism is corroding universities, undermining staff working conditions, and student working conditions. Staff have had enough and they are ready to take action.”