Issue 10, Semester 1
By DeMinimis Team
Members of the the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)’s University of Melbourne branch have voted to undertake a four hour work stoppage from 9 am to 1 pm on Wednesday 9 May. Staff are striking over a number of changes the University wants to make to staff working conditions, including:
De Minimis believes that these changes would directly affect the quality of education that MLS offers and therefore supports the industrial action and all staff who are participating.
Dear staff members of Melbourne Law School,
We hope you won’t mind if we tell you why we support all the staff who are striking, and why all the students who are fully across the issues feel the same as we do.
Students understand that the quality of their education relies on the work conditions of educators like those at MLS. We recognise that our capacity to learn, graduate, and achieve professional and personal success hinge entirely on our teachers’ capacity to impart knowledge and skills in a supportive and secure work environment. Student-to-teacher ratios and tutors’ remuneration for marking directly affect our learning. We want to hear your firmly held beliefs, rather than just what the university lets you say.
Students also get that it’s unacceptable for the university to decide that Indigenous representation among university staff is no longer a priority. We understand that the job market that we’re heading into is increasingly hostile and stratified as a result of attacks on working conditions, like the university trying to split off academics from professional staff.
This is why students understand that by attending the strike with their teachers, they are not losing time. They are investing in the job security of their teachers and the university’s professional staff. They are acknowledging the value of their teachers’ work.
Lots of workers who provide crucial services – nurses, ambulance drivers, energy sector workers – feel anguished when forced to choose between withdrawing their labour or continuing to work with care and skill at the job that gives meaning to their lives. Lots of the teachers striking in the US have expressed those concerns about neglecting the students that they’re meant to be looking after.
The reason that such workers still go on strike is that they know that their work is so important that if they’re forced to do it in substandard conditions, society as a whole will suffer. Academics can’t be the critical conscience of society if the university is allowed to put its reputation ahead of their job security, as in the case of Roz Ward at La Trobe University. Students can’t get the education that they need to be well-rounded learners and effective professionals unless they have access to academics for personal, individual support. Universities can’t contribute meaningfully to discussions on reconciliation and treaty unless First Nations people hold positions of influence in the staff body.
The method of the strike is so powerful because it leaves a hole in the employer’s organisation, and shows the employer how valuable their employees’ labour is. 68.2% of members participated in the Protected Action Ballot required under the Fair Work Act, and a massive 93% voted in favour of strike action. Students have showed practical support for the strike by flyering, door-knocking and phone banking. The response from staff exceeded all expectations.
After the ballot got up, the membership settled on a 4-hour stoppage to coincide with the massive Change the Rules rally which will take place in Melbourne. This rally aims to draw attention to the issues of wage growth, job security, and restrictions on the right to strike in all industries across Australia, and will demonstrate that the issues facing the University of Melbourne’s staff are widespread.
Any alternative action won’t have the same impact on the university, and won’t show them how fresh the Business Improvement Plan is in the minds of staff. If there’s a lacklustre turnout, the NTEU folks at the bargaining table won’t have the same boost.
We know that every time a workforce takes industrial action, their strength vis-a-vis management is solidified and entrenched. The conditions of workers who come after - including recent graduates entering the job market are protected.
Teachers, we back you 100%. All the students who know why the strike’s happening back you 100% as well.
We really hope to see you at the strike.
De Min Team.