UNSW staff go on strike

NTEU members form picket line on Anzac Parade/University Mall  

Standfirst: After months of inconclusive negotiations, UNSW staff began picketing as part of an effort to obtain higher wages, improved job security and more balanced workloads. 

Union-Affiliated UNSW staff went on strike last Wednesday after a call by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). The strike serves as the next chapter in an ongoing struggle between staff and the university’s management over pay rises, job security and work-life balance.  

Staff representatives and UNSW have been negotiating for months, but have yet to produce an agreement. Since mid-April, the NTEU has been organising daily one-hour work stoppages. Wednesday’s 24-hour strike was the most recent attempt by the union to increase pressure on management.  

One of the central issues preventing the conclusion of a deal is the size of the pay rise. Strikers have rejected UNSW’s wage increase offers of 3.25% p.a over 4 years or 3.4% in a 5-year agreement, which is below the national wage growth average of 3.7% in the first quarter of 2023.  

The NTEU has called for stronger job security, proposing the conversion of at least 35% of existing casual work to continuing work and the filling of these new positions with existing UNSW casuals. They have also proposed limiting workplace change processes to one over the life of an agreement and strengthening the definition of redundancy.  

Additionally, strikers are asking for a limit to the allocation of teaching and education-related activities for Education Focused staff of 60%. They defend that staff should enjoy flexibility to use 20% of their workload for career advancement.  

Two picketing lines were formed by NTEU members, one in front of the Anzac Parade light rail stop and another near High Street. Individuals, including staff from other universities, joined these demonstrations on the Kensington campus.  

The total number of employees on strike was not easy to determine. According to an NTEU member, many UNSW employees who tookpart inthe industrial action stayed at home.  

Strikers distributed flyers during the rally and urged students not to attend class in solidarity with their teachers. In a bid to rally support, NTEU members employed the slogan “staff working conditions are student learning conditions”. A few students could be seen actively supporting the demonstrators, but the majority seemed to ignore or avoid the picketers. 

A NTEU member told Tharunka that there is no further strike action planned after Wednesday for now. He confirmed that the union will wait to see UNSW management’s response before making any decision, but future strikes were not completely ruled out.  

Editor: Alex Neale