A number of Victorian universities will strike this week. University of Melbourne (UniMelb) will go on strike from 2 to 8 October, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) on 5 and 6 October, and Monash University from 9 to 11 October.
Staff from UniMelb will strike from midday on October 2 until 11.59pm on October 8 with a week-long schedule of activities, and will be joining RMIT on Thursday 5 October, following their historic strike campaign in August 2023.
In a press release, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National President Dr Alison Barnes said, “Victoria is seeing unprecedented strike action in universities because staff have had enough of being denied fair pay, secure jobs and safe workloads.
“The University of Melbourne has engaged in $45 million worth of wage theft and hands $1.5 million a year to its vice-chancellor.”
Staff from NTEU UniMelb have been engaged in enterprise bargaining for over a year, and have three key demands: reasonable workloads, permanent jobs that include minimum research allocation, and enforceable Indigenous employment targets.
NTEU UniMelb Acting Branch Secretary Chloe Mackenzie said,”Our critical claim to address excessive workloads has been ignored; we haven’t seen anywhere near enough progress on limiting restructures; and the University continues to refuse to provide for reasonable working from home arrangements for professional staff.”
“Moreover, despite recent news stories which have spotlighted institutional racism perpetrated within the University against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and students, management haven’t budged on our very modest claims for mandatory provision of cultural awareness and safety training for all staff nor a requirement that cultural load be recognised in the workload allocations of indigenous employees.”
Ben Eltham, NTEU Branch president of Monash, commented that, “There was a strong view from colleagues that bargaining negotiations had stretched on too long and that the University’s current offers on pay, workloads and job security are not good enough.”
Staff at Monash University have spoken of over bloated class sizes, unpaid preparation time, and unpaid consultations and marking. While staff are not adequately supported, Monash University’s Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner received an above-inflation pay rise of 12% last year.
“Management at Monash University is openly contemptuous of the staff that teach, research and keep the place running — and staff have started to notice. They’re getting tired of the managerialism and corporatisation.”
Monash University NTEU members had last gone on a half-day strike on Wednesday 6 September, and this week’s strike will be 48 hours on both Clayton and Caulfield campus. Eltham added, “We’ve established an industrial action committee and planning for the action is well advanced. The current plan is for a BBQ and rally on Monday 9th immediately after we stop work, followed by a picket of Clayton campus facilities on Tuesday 10th. Teach-ins and union get-togethers are scheduled for the afternoon of the 10th. There will be a picket of Caulfield campus on the morning of the 11th.”
RMIT will stop work at 12.30pm on Thursday October 5th for a half day strike, followed by a full day strike on Friday October 6th. Tricia McLaughlin, RMIT NTEU Branch President, commented that, “In spite of industrial bans and a one day strike on September 13th, RMIT has still failed to declare a % wage increase offer to academic, professional staff and have offered vocational education staff a wage increase of 9% over three years.
“RMIT University continues to promote excessive workloads through bargaining eg: RMIT has proposed all VE staff teach 21 hours a week with no range of hours; and HE teachers can teach up to 80% for teaching focussed academics, with removal of the 24 weeks teaching limit protection.”
RMIT thus far has “refused the NTEU’s claim for a single agreement to cover higher education, vocational education and RMIT Training staff,” and has “refused the NTEU’s claims for 17% super, equal redundancy and leave provisions for all staff and personal carers leave for casuals.”
If the University continues to oppose the NTEU’s demands, the “members will consider further industrial action and bans in meetings in November and December 2023.”