With the National Union of Students’ (NUS) ‘Budget Day National Student Strike’, and the Sydney University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)/ Public Service Association (PSA) enterprise bargaining campaign strike, both having occurred on Tuesday May 14, there are some things that I thought needed to be clarified.
ONE: What if I didn’t attend my classes on the strike day?
FICTION: Your teachers keep telling you that if you didn’t attend class on the strike day you’ll fail your course/ lose marks/ no one will ever love you again because your life will become a failure.
FACT: “No student will be penalised if their class does not take place or if they are unable to attend their class” (Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor). This statement was sent to every student’s university email, so if you don’t believe me check your inbox!
TWO: But my teachers didn’t tell me that they’d be on strike?
FICTION: University management told you that your staff would have notified you if they’re striking, so if they didn’t tell you and your classes didn’t go ahead because they were on strike they’ve done something wrong.
FACT: Under law employees do not have to declare if they are taking industrial action prior to this action occurring, therefore your staff do not have to have notified you. Employees have the right to anonymity in their involvement in industrial action and with their union membership.
THREE: Are the staff greedy? Can the University afford the unions’ demands, especially with the recent $2.8 billion in federal funding cuts?
FICTION: University management are saying that they would like to grant staff the 7% per annum pay increase, but that they can’t afford it, particularly now they will be losing $45 million in government funding.
FACT: The University currently has a $93 million budgetary surplus and the Vice Chancellor receives an annual salary of nearly $1 million (not including the $100 000s worth of bonuses he awards himself).
The requested 7% per annum pay increase is more than feasible if Spence accepts a lower salary (the average individual’s salary is around $80 000 per annum), because even with the federal funding cuts the University will still have a $48 million surplus left over!
FOUR: Is the University arguing in good faith and attempting to reach an agreement?
FICTION: The University is claiming that it has been attempting to negotiate but the “union does not amend its position”.
FACT: The NTEU and CPSU/PSA are attempting to reach an agreement as soon as possible. They have asked the university to agree to a thirty day time frame so that the University can function as usual, however management refuses to agree to this.
No one particularly enjoys strike action; staff lose pay and students miss out on a day of learning.
The unions have proven their demands are reasonable and will still leave the University with an enormous cash surplus. Management are the ones unfortunately delaying the bargaining process by (for one example) originally agreeing to reinstate review committees and then backing out of this promise, requiring the negotiation process to start again.
FIVE: How does not going to class help my education?
FICTION: My education is worse off if I don’t attend on a strike day.
FACT: The staff have been taking industrial action because the quality of their working conditions and the quality of your education are under threat. The EBA management wants to introduce will lead to less staff and more students, thus you’re lectures and tutorials will become more and more overcrowded. It will increase the number of casual staff at the University, meaning your teachers are only paid for their ‘face-to-face’ teaching time and thus will find it difficult to adequately prepare for classes and offer you the support you need (and deserve!). The students at Sydney University took industrial action in support of their staff as well as with students around the country in opposition to the $2.8 billion government cuts delivered in the budget yesterday. Yes, missing out on a few days of class due to recent industrial action isn’t ideal and as I said the staff wouldn’t be taking strike action and losing pay if they didn’t have to either. However the strikes send a strong message that we won’t accept $2.8 billion in government funding cuts and we won’t accept an unfair EBA at Sydney University, because both will have a devastating effect on our education.
Therefore, sacrificing a few days this semester is worth it if it allows us to have the high quality degree (read: several years worth of education) that we deserve.