In the last semester the education department has undertaken two actions in support of staff in their ongoing industrial dispute, namely the strike on August 20 and the strike on Open Day, August 31.
But the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has conceded a deal with University management, and the three-day strike, which was to be held from October 8-10, has been called off.
In regards to the USYD-specific actions, the NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) called a strike on August 20. The Education Action Group (EAG) worked to: a) hold weekly EAG meetings at 2pm on the New Law Lawns, b) design, write copy for, print and distribute material to promote the strike and student support thereof, c) organise legal support and observers (one filmer, one note-taker) for each picket line; liase with the SRC solicitors to ensure they are on hand if there are any arrests; and have a legal skillshare with independent solicitors in the lead-up to the strike, d) liaise with the street medics’ collective to support efforts to ensure that first aid, distribution of water, snacks and sunscreen was available throughout the day, e) lecture bash in the lead-up to the strike, f) hold working bees to create and design more placards, posters and banners for the day of the strike, g) engage with different collectives, clubs and societies and other campuses’ student organisations who were able to attend and support USYD strike actions and lastly, h) organise a convergence point for students to discuss how to work together on the days of action and publicise this point as an open point for students wishing to be involved on the day.
The strike on August 20 coincided with the National Day of Action (NDA), which organised across campuses with the focus on protesting the $2.6 billion tertiary education cuts announced by the previous Labor government.
The education department was involved in organising weekly EAG meetings; attending Cross-Campus Education Action Network (CCEAN) meetings and designing and making (VERY LARGE) banners for the NDA. Campus-specific actions included holding a stall which engaged in outreach through banner painting and photo petitions for the two weeks prior to the action.
There was also communication with different collectives and clubs and societies to bring along contingents to the strike/NDA with emphasis on using relevant email channels to bring attention to as well as making ‘organisational’ specific banners (for example Queer bloc, Women’s Collective, Greens on Campus, Enviro Collective, and the ECOP and Fabian societies). The University of Sydney Union (USU) also helped out on the day with Board Director Bebe D’Souza and
Vice-President Tom Raue handing out USU-subsidised water and sandwiches to picketers at each entrance.
There was also a legal collective organised fwhich used the cameras provided by the SRC to film and take notes from each picket with the intention of compiling evidence of police misconduct in the event of police endangering student safety. There was one student arrest made on the day, and as usual the police acted disproportionately and arbitrarily. The legal collective collected details of people with cameras and a solidarity contingent went to Newtown police station to welcome back the political prisoner.
On August 31 the education department was also involved in organsing in solidarity with the NTEU who were on strike on Open Day to ‘Reclaim USYD’. This involved disrupting the University’s official public image as one which has the lowest staff satisfaction rate and an administration prone to calling in the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS) on students who express political dissent on campus.
The actions on the day were centred on causing a ruckus by having a roaming picket and handing out copies of Vagina Soit, disrupting lectures and chalking to raise awareness of some unhappy USYD students. The NTEU and CPSU have engaged in a long-drawn-out and tough fight with University management. I commend their tenacity and appreciate their support to students involved in supporting the staff actions. If people are interested in becoming engaged with education issues on campus, please come to the EAG meetings which are held at 2 pm on New Law Lawns on Tuesdays.