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Sydney University staff to strike for 48 hours over ‘exploitative’ work and job insecurity

Industrial action will take place at the University of Sydney (pictured) from Wednesday. Photo: The University of Sydney.


Hundreds of University of Sydney staff and students will gather tomorrow for a strike that could shut the campus down for 48 hours. 

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Sydney voted to strike last month on the 11th and 12th of May as the opening move to their industrial action. 

The union said that their objectives would focus on protecting academics’ research workload, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets, improved rights for professional staff members and an “end to job-insecurity and exploitative casual work”. 

The President of the NTEU’s Sydney University Branch, Nick Riemer, told City Hub that staff doesn’t want to feel “enslaved” to their employers.

Sydney Uni

Nick Riemer. Photo: University of Sydney.

“Management wants to shred the current protections that academics have around their workload,” Riemer said.

“At the moment, academics are entitled to a certain portion of their workload devoted to research. This proposal from management is to completely deregulate workload at the university. They also want to remove committees that try to regulate workload, so they just want to remove the only break-foot there are on escalating workloads at the university.

“It’s scandalous and our members won’t stand for it.” 

Riemer said they’ve been negotiating with management since August and have failed to gain any traction. He said that “we should be listened to and respected, and that’s enough”.

“Because Australia has extremely restrictive industrial relations laws, pretty much the worse in the developed world, it’s only during enterprise bargaining that we can strike.”

Sydney University strike a ‘last resort’: Union

Secretary of the NSW NTEU, Damien Cahill, said that casual teachers (who he estimated to be doing about half of the teaching) were “not getting paid for all the work they do”.

“We know that staff is overworked, and that management is relying on their goodwill, working them over and above the hours which they’re paid to keep the university going.

“We’ve been at the table negotiating for almost 12 months, so we’ve given management every opportunity to agree to our demands during the negotiation and this strike action is simply a last resort.” 

Sydney University student and SRC Education Officer, Deaglan Goodwin, said that “staff working conditions and student learning conditions are intimately entwined”.

“What we’ve seen over the past couple of years, decades even, is an erosion of the quality of education, an erosion of the diversity of subject choices, and massive increases to class sizes.

“We’ve also seen a massive increase in casualisation rates across universities, so I think these are interconnected to a worsening in the quality of education.” 

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