Nearly a year into bargaining at Sydney University, the fight has come down to wages. A strike on 20 August was held to send a clear message to management that a pay cut is unacceptable. This action brings the strike tally for the campaign to six.

The campus was deserted, with many classes cancelled and traffic disrupted at university entrances. At the Ross Street gate, more than 65 cars were turned away in a couple of hours, and even delivery truck drivers with no particular connection to the university chose not to cross the picket.

Management once again called riot police onto campus to fight their battle. In one scuffle, a student who stood up to a Liberal supporter was arrested.

The unions involved in bargaining have rejected management’s latest offer of a 2.9 percent annual wage increase. This is up from the 2 percent that was put a year ago. Management claim the offer is generous. Staff who have not had a pay rise in 18 months disagree.

In response to the ongoing union campaign, senior management have now hired a public relations team to sell staff and interested parties the idea that a pay cut is the only way to finalise negotiations. Scaremongering emails about the union sending the university bankrupt and threats to job security are being sent to staff.

A cheat-sheet designed to help university executives answer tough questions at staff forums advises that when asked about their own 15 percent “performance bonuses”, senior management should deflect by pointing out that the Sydney University vice-chancellor is only the 10th highest paid VC in the country!

In fact, reportedly earning a mere $899,143 a year, they would just about call Michael Spence a volunteer if they thought they could sell that.

Right now, there is a debate going on over the issue of “performance bonuses” and managerial salaries. While staff are threatened with job losses and a pay cut, the union campaign will continue.