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Students asked to stay at home next Wednesday

Brendan Byron

Students have been asked to stay at home next Wednesday by the main staff union of UNSW and the Student Representative Council.

The UNSW Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has voted to take protected action next Wednesday March 11 as they claim a range of demands are not being met by chancellery in negotiations over the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

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In practical terms, this means there will be pickets surrounding campus from 7:30am until 1pm next Wednesday, as strikers give information to students and passers-by about why they are on strike.

Education Officer Cara Egan told Tharunka that the SRC and the Education Collective are supporting the strike.

“Next Wednesday, we’re asking that you either stay home or join us on the picket fence,” Cara Egan said. “The working conditions of our teachers and the quality of our education are inextricable.”

“Good staff pay benefits all of us, and any help we give staff will ultimately help students.”

While staff will be encouraging students and UNSW community members to go home, they will not be blocking or intimidating those who wish to pass through.

During this week, union members will be informing their classes as to whether normal teaching will take place next Wednesday. If you are unsure, the NTEU advises that you ask your teacher if you will be penalised for missing class Wednesday.

Chancellery’s bargaining position is currently an overall pay increase of 3% a year, split into 1.5% per six months – a rate the NTEU claims barely exceeds inflation, let alone mean a real wage increase.

This format of segmented pay increase means a lower pay rate in real terms against inflation.

The NTEU is also asking for clauses in the enterprise agreement to address workplace bullying, overtime pay and flexitime accrual, parental leave arrangements, and ‘workload neutral’ paid leave. A full list of demands can be seen on their website.

According to a pamphlet distributed by the NTEU, staff conditions are important for students as well, as staff who are overloaded cannot give students the high quality education they deserve.

The pamphlet goes on to explain: “NTEU is campaigning for secure work, reasonable workloads and fair pay for staff. This means they can do their job well and provide you with a high quality education.”

UNSW Chancellery was contacted for comment, but did not reply as of deadline.

Correction: an earlier version of this article stated the NTEU’s claim as that a 3% pay rise “did not exceed” inflation. Their dispute was that an increase of 3% “barely covered” inflation, and this has been addressed.

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