Stop work now, thank you very much
If you wanna be successful, you’ve gotta respect your staff… okay we’ll stop now. Claire Ince and Elizabeth Symington investigate the mysterious stop work strike that shook students campus-wide.
If you’re a committed student you may have noticed that your classes came to a grinding halt from 12:30 to 4:00pm last Wednesday. Why, you may ask? The truth is, nobody really knows.
So here’s the tea.
UON staff are pushing the uni for better working conditions.
Why does it matter?
“Staff working conditions are student learning conditions”.
If you actually read one of the six flyers that were probably handed to you throughout the day, you’d know that the majority of “undergrad teaching at UON is done by staff employed casually and on short-term contracts”.
In short, the ongoing enterprise bargaining aims to “ensure all lecturers, tutors and all UoN staff have secure work, reasonable workloads and fair pay, so [they] can provide the high quality education [we] deserve.”
But what’s REALLY going on behind the scenes?
UON staff have been bargaining for something in the new enterprise agreements for professional staff, academic staff and teachers for the past 12 months.
The moment staff enterprise agreements with the university end, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) begins negotiating for the next three year cycle and the last agreement ended in June last year.
Kerri Foulds, a research training officer at UON and member of the NTEU enterprise bargaining team says “there are common clauses for all three agreements, and in the last six months we’ve become very stuck on some of these common clauses [and] management have not been willing to budge.”
To put it simply, the strike was deemed necessary by the union because bargaining had been “dragging on for a long time”.
Foulds stated that while NTEU’s main aim is to stop important clauses that protect staff from being dismissed from being removed from the upcoming agreement, they’re also rallying for added conditions, such as paid leave for staff experiencing family and domestic violence issues.
In an official statement issued to Yak Media, a UON spokesperson suggested that they were willing to work with NTEU to find an appropriate solution.
“Negotiating the terms and conditions for a diverse workforce is a detailed process which takes time. The University is keen to achieve agreement with staff representatives so that new benefits and salary increases can be activated for staff as soon as possible.
“The University respects the rights of NTEU members to take protected industrial action but, as we are close to reaching agreement, we would encourage the NTEU to work with us at the bargaining table.”
While this would be the ideal solution for the university, the NTEU have walked out of enterprise agreement meetings because they believe the uni is not listening.
“UON Management have emailed staff with a salary agreement and saying that they were going to take all the agreements to just a staff vote, so they basically just blew up the whole idea of bargaining” says Foulds.
Even though the battle still continues staff, as noted by Foulds, remain “hopeful that [they] will still come to a good outcome.”
Images: Claire Ince and Elizabeth Symington