At a packed meeting on 17 August, members of the University of Sydney NTEU branch voted overwhelmingly to take strike action to fight management’s aggressive attacks on working conditions.
The first action was an event to disrupt Open Day on 26 August. More than 100 staff picketed key entry points across the campus to let visitors know why staff were striking. It was impossible to enter the campus without being swamped by a sea of purple NTEU flags and banners. “Strike” balloons were handed out to visitors and many high schoolers posed for photos holding placards in support of staff.
Student activists from the Education Action Group also joined the pickets. At a midday rally, picketers and students marched to the vice-chancellor’s office chanting, “We’re angry, we’re loud, we’re union and we’re proud”.
In the current round of enterprise bargaining, the NTEU is demanding improved job security, decent pay, more rights for casual staff and the protection of existing academic conditions. Management has refused to meet these demands and instead has handed down a pay offer of 1.9 percent a year.
While the mood at the Open Day action was positive, staff understand that an ongoing campaign to pressure management is needed if they are to win. Union members are already gearing up for the next action, a weekday strike on 13 September.