Hannah Smith tells you what’s on with the women’s collective

Hi all! What a busy week it has been for the Women’s Collective. On Monday, some of us attended the History Society’s ‘Girl Effect’ trivia night. The night was part of a larger program run by the USU around the Girl Effect campaign which aims to empower women worldwide through access to education, health care and resources. As part of the campaign, we held a discussion in Women’s Collective on Wednesday on global women’s issues and the place western women have in addressing these issues.

We are also very excited to have launched the cross-campus women’s network this week. On Wednesday evening, we got together at UTS with women from UNSW, USYD, Uni of Wollongong and UTS and held a “craftivism” evening. We made badges, zines and bunting for the women’s room. We look forward to working with the network on big projects throughout the year such as Blue Stockings Week and Reclaim the Night.

In addition to this, both Emily and I are really excited to work with women’s collective and any other interested women students in producing the upcoming edition of Women’s Honi Soit. Women’s Honi is an important way for women to gain skills in traditionally male-dominated professions such as writing and publishing as well as starting conversations about women’s issues. We would like to see a broad cross-section of women involved this year, so please get in contact with us if you are at all interested!

As always, we would love to hear from you. Tweet us at @SRCwomens join the “Usyd Womens Collective” Facebook group or email us at usydwomenscollective@gmail.com. We meet every Wednesday at 1pm in the women’s room (Level 1, Manning House).

Hannah Smith

Casey Thompson asks you to rally for your rights

What the HECS?! Why is my education a debt sentence!?

This Wednesday, the 27th of March, is the National Union of Students’ (NUS) National Day of Action (NDA). Students across the country are rallying in their capital cities to ask the government “Hey Baby Boomers – Where’s our Education Revolution?” The day is to remind politicians that “[We won’t] pay more for less: our education is not for profit.” Your local NDA event will be starting at 1pm at The University of Technology’s Broadway campus, where students from across the state will march up City Road to The University of Sydney. There will be speakers at the beginning and end of the march, sharing their experiences on our current education crisis and what we can do to fight for quality, free, education.

A central demand of the rally is that our government abolishes the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and provides free-universal education for all. Both Tony Abbott (Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Laws) and Julia Gillard (Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws) received their degrees under the free education policy introduced by Gough Whitlam in 1974. Therefore, the exact people who have never had education debt to repay are trying to increase ours. I’d say that’s a little more than slightly hypocritical.

In 1989 the Hawke Government introduced the HECS system and in 1990 the average university graduate took approximately 8.5 months to repay their debt. This has been increasing ever since. In 2000 it took an average of 5.9 years to repay and by 2010 it was a huge 7.9 years worth of repayments. Now, in 2013, the average student must spend a decade repaying their HECS. (This is of course only domestic students, as most international students who study in Australia are required to pay their fees upfront.) This is unacceptable. Education should be provided free of charge by the state. It should be accessible to all. If we redirected the $24.2 billion/ annum national defense budget towards education, we could make huge advancements in the quality of education and serious reductions in the cost to students.

If you don’t want to leave university with over a decade’s worth of debt to repay, join the NDA march and help us send a strong message that students are serious about demanding the education revolution that we were promised

Casey Thompson

Dylan Parker thinks you should join your union already

After a quick survey of my uni mates, unions get a bad rap. They’re either thugs and business busters or unwilling to smash the state and bring on the revolution. All of them agreed that today’s unions weren’t relevant to students.

Look, I totally get why you might think that. With a Murdoch press gunning for them on the right and young radicals shit-canning individual ones on the far left, why bother?

Well, unions matter and they matter to students. They matter because if there is anyone who is going to get screwed over by an unscrupulous boss it’s a student. We work casual jobs, are probably in retail or hospitality, and don’t have the skills to demand a hefty pay packet. Hell, I’ve even been there justifying to myself getting paid in cash, not getting overtime or giving up my penalty rates because my boss is awesome. Fair enough, but in the end it almost never adds up. We even get a raw deal under the law with youth wages, meaning an 18 year old gets paid 30% less than a 21 year old for the same work. Fortunately, the retail union the SDA is campaigning for 100% pay at 18.

A couple of months ago a bartender mate of mine had a pay slip that just didn’t add up week after week. Luckily, she was a member of her union United Voice. They checked it out and it turns out not only had her boss been underpaying her but half the staff there for months. United Voice took the company to court and they paid out the tens of thousands of dollars in back-pay they had been cheating her and the dozens of other employees.

Look, that’s just one story but stuff like that happens all the time and it’s almost always students getting screwed over. Unions are all we’ve got as young workers and as someone who has interned for one I can promise you their people care. We all think it won’t happen to us but when it does, only your union is going to have your back.

Dylan Parkergeneral.secretary@src.usyd.edu.au

David Pink is enraged with the machine

Some of the most vehement smears coming out of Management’s PR machine is that  the NTEU is asking for wage rises above community expectations, and that the University’s offer of a 2% per annum wage increase is a “reasonable” offer. As staff go out on strike for 48 hours this Tuesday and Wednesday, I thought I’d devote this report to an excerpt from an open letter circulated by Rowanne Couch, a staff member in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It goes some way to disposing of the smoke and mirrors game being played by the University:

The University is offering a 2% per annum wage increase over the term of the next enterprise agreement. In effect this is an offer to accept a decline in real wages in return for staff delivering on these nebulous productivity gains. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the cost of living in Sydney as represented by the Consumer Price Index rose by 2.4% in the 12 months to December 2012. Examining the ABS Wage Price Index we can see a 3.4% increase in private sector wages and a 3.2% increase in public sector wages nationally over the same period (ABS 6401.0, ABS 6345.0). Are we expecting these trends to reverse?

There are few ways to parse this offer that aren’t ridiculous. Should staff perhaps retaliate with an offer to deliver an annual 0.4%-1.4% decline in productivity to account for the real wages forfeited over the term of the agreement? I think not. While I understand that both parties in a negotiation of this nature indulge in the time-honoured ritual of inflated ambit claims at both ends of the spectrum, the University’s intransigence on this aspect of the offer is disheartening.

It is also a fact that the costing assumptions made available to staff to assist with budgeting last year assumed a 3% per annum increase in salaries over the period 2013-2015. If 3% is already in the University’s sights in a rolling budget approved by Senate, then surely insistence on a 2% offer in the current bargaining round is derisory.

In the absence of a proposed increase in real wages, where is the demonstrable protection of hard-won non-cash benefits that might allow us to consider the required productivity gains a ‘trade-off?’

One of the reasons most often cited colloquially among staff to justify their continued loyalty to the University, despite the attractions of higher salaries on offer in industry and elsewhere, is that the non-cash benefits of our contracts (should we be lucky enough not to work as casuals) are a tacit acknowledgement of the University’s commitment to the well-being of its workforce. Among these, our superannuation, maternity leave and sick leave benefits are standouts.

I have no doubt that you of all people would recognise the importance of history in helping us understand our present predicaments. Those with long enough institutional memories will remember that trade-offs in previous enterprise bargaining rounds were predicated on acceptance of a disciplined cap on wage claims in return for non-cash benefits that were more generous than those on offer in other sectors. They were intended to bridge the divide between the potential remuneration pulling-power of highly skilled staff were they to transfer to other sectors, and what the University, cash-strapped as always, was capable of offering.
To now turn and deplete these provisions while simultaneously offering such a paltry increase in salaries can only be considered insulting.

Emily Rayers reports on the happenings of the Women’s Collective

In 2010, for the first time ever, the Academy Award for best direction was won by a woman (Kathryn Bigelow). In the history of the awards, over 80 years, only 3 women had ever been nominated for best director – that’s a representation of 0.75% of nominations, despite 16% of directors being women.

Women are under-represented both in the media workforce and in media awards. In feature films, women make up 29% of producers, 20% of writers and 16% of directors. While this participation rate is low, and the reasons behind it ought to be examined, far more distressing is the comparative recognition women receive for their work: of the top 250 grossing box office films in 2011 only 5% were directed by women, and fewer than that received any awards or even nominations.

If you’re reading this column, we can probably agree that this discrepancy is not a result of women being inherently worse at directing or producing films. The low representation and recognition of women in media is a reflection of the society we live in. During collective this week we discussed the portrayal of women in the media, and many great points were made about the shallow stereotypes put forward: women are either bitchy or sickly sweet, innocent virgins or ‘sluts’. With a traditional media representation like that, how many women would want to work in the industry?

Other issues involve a lack of women mentors within the industry and poor financial compensation for women. True to common trends in all careers, a study from 2011 showed women in film were on significantly lower salaries than men both in production and other roles, and regardless of whether it was free-to-air or subscription TV channels.

When faced with huge imbalances such as this it can be difficult to know how to make a difference. As women, and men, we can support and encourage women in the industry by acknowledging their unrecognized work – you can start this week by attending the Seen & Heard festival’s final night on Thursday 21st March at the Red Rattler, Marrickville. Tickets $15 for adults and $10 for students.

Seen & Heard aims to showcase films with women involved in major production roles (writing, producing and directing). The festival is back for it’s fourth year and is bigger and better than ever, showing some incredible short films and celebrating diversity and intersectionality. This Thursday is the third and final night and promises to be something pretty special, with fictional and documentary films from across the globe including Australia, UK, Germany and Puerto Rico.

If you are interesting in joining the Women’s Collective in attending Seen & Heard, or would like to be a part of the collective feel free to come along to our meetings at 1pm Wednesdays in the Women’s Room, Manning House. You can also email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com, search for ‘Usyd Women’s Collective’ on Facebook or send us a tweet – @SRCwomens.  Have a great week!

Tenaya Alattas pick(et)s scabs

A scab is a dry, rough incrustation of matted blood, debris, clot, and pus that forms over a wound or sore.  A scab is also a derogatory term for a dislikeable or contemptible person, especially one who is unreliable: a scoundrel. Within the trade union movement the pejorative label for a strike-breaker is a scab; to describe those who refuse to join, break or work in place of others on strike. A scab is, in summary, a person that some students/staff will find deeply offensive during the 48-hour strike next week.

The offence the scab causes is not for the individual act or crime against the rule of law. In fact, every major victory relating to your rights surrounding work were achieved with direct actions that were, in their time, illegal and subject to police repression. In the US for example, up until the 1930s.

The laws surrounding labor unions and strikes were simple—there were none. Thereby the scorn afforded to scabs  goes far deeper than breaking the law.
Rather, the offense of scabbing is to undermine the idea, purpose and effect of the workers on strike. The idea behind strike action is simple and powerful: if the terms and conditions of work are not acceptable to workers then no work shall be done. More than a protest, a stunt or a means to draw attention to a cause, the purpose of a strike is to cause a disruption. And while it may often disrupt people who didn’t really cause the problem, it’s the very disruption that produces an effect. That is by disrupting management and employers; a strike costs them money and time.

To scab is to bolster the economic and moral position of the employer. Management will say they do not have enough money to afford staff batter pay and conditions, arguing that the NTEU and CPSU are “greedy” with “gold plated” conditions. However one must only look at the million dollar salaries of management who are crying poor to see this is not a question of there not being enough money – but rather question of power. Striking shifts the balance of power towards the general/academic staff to enable maximum leverage in negotiations for better terms, conditions and wages. So if you don’t want to be called a scab next week, don’t go to class or cross the picket line.

Tenaya Alattas
Joint SRC Education Officer

University Investments called to account

University. For me? Research. Usyd! Apply. Accepted. Registration. Complete. O week. Free stuff. Too much guarana. Timetable?  Workable. First class? Found and attended! Congratulations, our university education begins. But let’s back track a second. What was it that made us choose Sydney University in the first place?

Is it the 160 year old sandstone buildings that makes us feel as close to Hogwarts as we can be without a wand? Is it the ‘student life’ so sought after? Is it the abundance of lecturers with academic freedom for quality teaching? Is it USYD’s forward research into a sustainable future? Is it the social justice initiatives that such an internationally renowned institution has the capacity for, which makes us as students feel a part of something worthwhile?

While USYD does carry a certain rep for historically derived prestige and bustling student life, I’m willing to guess it wasn’t the later justifications. Perhaps these aren’t always at the forefront of our minds- after all its arguable that the connection between research, investment, education and the outside world is intentionally mystified. But as we witness the cutting of staff on financial grounds alongside a little research into where this capital goes, academica, sustainability or social justice cannot be why we chose USYD. Simply because these reasons would be inaccurate.

We as students are implicated in an institution who’s ‘Investment and Capital management’ (ICM) department’s objective is to  “enhance the overall wealth and fiscal capacity of the University through the adoption and implementation of investment and capital management best practice.” No mention of ethical or sustainable ventures in USYD finance. So what are our investments and who are the investors?  These speak loudly to the interests of our institution. To name three;

  • ANZ, the bank on our student cards, is also the funder of $20 million to companies expanding the coal industry in NSW and QLD. Companies including Rio Tinto, Xstrata, BHP Billiton, Whitehaven which are remembered for oil spills and encroachment on farms and state forests. Surely an ethical investor would reconsider partnerships with socially and environmentally unsustainable fossil fuel projects?
  • BHP Billiton donates a subsequent slice of the $13 million pie to finishing bio-molecular/chemical engineering students. While these grants give futures in the work force, isn’t our university constraining our opportunities for development in sustainable industries?
  • Nuclear weapons – Sydney University invests $2 million into 15 companies that manufacture and manipulate nuclear weaponry. On what grounds can we justify an education institution funding nuclear warfare?

USYD investments don’t stop financially. Our new chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, is the current director of AGL (known for its propagation of coal seam gas, a socially and environmentally unsound fossil fuel). She is also the former director of the conservative think tank, The Centre for Independent Studies, known for libertarian views on education as a business rather than a quality learning experience. Appointment of leaders with such vested interests again question what USYD really is invested in.

We, as students, are implicated in this system. This is where our fees and SSAF are pooled. But more importantly, these interests fuel our education. This feeds into the centers established, the direction of research, and the scholarships/grant options we receive for our hard earned years of study.
So although it may not be at the forefront of our minds when we choose our institution, our courses or our timetable… maybe it should be?

Want more information? Lock the Campus is a nation-wide campaign looking into investment relationships between university and the Coal/CSG industry.

Visit lockthecampus.org.au to find out more

The SRC’s got your back.

So its week 3 and classes are in full swing, textbooks have been bought and ignored, and some of us have assignments already (Eughh). Hopefully, you’re killing it and your biggest problem is choosing between Manning or Hermann’s.

However, it’s probably worth knowing where to go if shit hits the fan and you need somebody to help. That’s why the SRC provides a free casework service catering for all of your academic and welfare needs as well a FREE legal service.

Come see a Caseworker!

Providing information, advice and advocacy, the casework department is arguably a core reason the University continues to fund the SRC. We have at your call 5 caseworkers, including one dedicated to satellites worker. You can either drop in or book an appointment.
What’s great about the casework service is they’ll help you with almost anything matters to a student. Just to name a few, academically whether its an unfair mark, getting help with appeals, special considerations or even an exclusion we’ll provide advice and even represent you. Another great thing is that our caseworkers fight for your welfare as well, helping break down the daunting bureaucracy of Centrelink, getting tenancy rights advice so your landlord doesn’t screw you, or even help with international student concessions to figure out if your actually any better off.
We also have a dedicated satellite worker that regularly visits Cumberland, the Con, Westmead, SCA, Mallet St, and at Camden campus so if your not at Camperdown your not out in the cold.

Yup, a FREE Legal Service!

You read it correctly, we provide a FREE legal service for Usyd students. Whether its help with a fine, debt issues, or just generally need advice the SRC has two solicitors who can provide help from even the most initial consultation to representing you in court.
The craziest bit is, it doesn’t cost you a cent. Hopefully you won’t need our solicitors but hell shit happens.

Dylan Parker
SRC General Secretary

David Pink outlines the reasons for the 48 Hour Strike

A lot of the propaganda that management has been putting forth about the strike has focused on wage claims. I think that this is a distortion. The majority of staff objections to the EBA claims are unrelated to pay. They relate to staff conditions that directly affect our education. I thought I’d reproduce the NTEU’s summary of management’s proposed changes in full, to help counter this PR:

• Reduction in the obligations for managers to consult with staff about workplace change.
• Removal of processes that require managers to produce formal change documents.

• Abolition of ALL review committees from the Enterprise Agreement including those that deal with unsatisfactory performance, misconduct and redundancy.

• Abolition of ALL commitments to prevent and eliminate discriminatory employment practices.

• Abolition of ALL Intellectual Freedom protections from the Enterprise Agreement including staff rights to participate in and criticise the governance of the University free from harassment, vilification and intimidation.

• Abolition of the right for general staff to be correctly classified.
• Abolition of the joint Union and management Classification Monitoring Panel, the right to bring classification disputes and the right of staff to seek reassessment of their classification.
• Refusal to provide restrictions on general staff being forced to regularly and systematically perform over time.

• Refusal to provide staff with enforceable rights in relation to bullying and harassment in the Enterprise Agreement.

• Removal of the NTEU as a party to the Enterprise Agreement.
• Removal of the NTEU’s rights to challenge Management decisions and take disputes.
• Removal of the NTEU’s rights to hold Members meetings.
• Removal of obligations that require the Management to consult the NTEU and the Management and Staff Consultative Committee in relation to University policies.
• Removal of rights that allow the NTEU to be physically present on campus including the loss of commitments by Management to provide the NTEU office space, access to internal University systems, authorised payroll deductions of union dues and time release for the Branch President, which enables them to represent staff.

• Removal of the right of academic staff to a research allocation in their workload through the abolition of the 40/40/20 workload model.
• Abolition of work hours restrictions including the removal of clauses requiring that work duties be able to be performed within a 37.5 hour week and the annual work hours cap of 1725 hours.
• Removal of the right of academic staff to dispute their workload through the Central Workload Monitoring Committee.

• Removal of restrictions on Management increasing casual employment.
• Removal of provisions that allowed casual staff to apply for conversion.

• Reduction in Personal (sick) Leave entitlements for all staff to 20 days.
• Expansion of management rights to require a medical certificate for absences of 3 days or more; it is currently 5 days or more.
• Abolition of the separate entitlement to Partner Leave (currently 5 days) and its inclusion in Personal (sick) Leave.

Be aware of accommodation scam!

SRC Legal Service has received several cases concerning an accommodation scam.

In a typical scenario, the scam targets international students or those who are too busy or unable to have a look at the advertised accommodation in person before renting. These students were usually asked to pay a ‘holding fee’ or a ‘deposit’ in order to secure the property before they even get to meet the landlord or see the place for rent. In the end, the unlucky ones usually discovered that the scammer just disappeared completely after the payment has been received.

How to avoid this situation if you are really unable to see the place before you have to move?

Do not transfer money by Western Union if you were asked to pay a holding fee. This is because money transferred through Western Union is not recoverable.

Try to arrange a friend or someone you can trust to meet with the landlord and also check out the property for you. Get this person to ask to see the landlord’s proper ID and record the landlord’s details as much as possible such as full name, contact address, driver’s licence number etc. This is to ensure that you know exactly the identity of the person you are dealing with, so that if this person later disappeared, you may contact the police for help with this information.

Please also make sure that you obtain a written receipt immediately for all money paid to the landlord and that you should only be required to pay a holding fee which is equivalent to one week’s rent.

You can also find an accommodation renting check list and a template of residential tenancy lease on the SRC website at www.src.usyd.edu.au.

If you have any questions or have come over any issues in relation to renting a place, you are welcome to come speak to our solicitor at the SRC Legal Service by contacting 9660 5222 to make an appointment.