Sydney University security guards have been caught confiscating union material from staff members’ offices and desks two days after the National Tertiary and Education Union agreed to wind up its industrial campaign for a new enterprise agreement.
Staff were shocked after arriving at work in the Margaret Telfer Building to find that security had entered their offices and taken their possessions, including union posters, union membership forms, union badges and a marriage equality poster.
This is the second time security have attempted to intimidate supporters of the union on campus. Just days prior to a campus-wide strike on 13 September, security stalked students around campus, entered the Students’ Representative Council and confiscated hundreds of strike-support posters. They also intimidated and harassed staff and students on the pickets on 13 September, working with the police riot squad.
The university confirmed that security had been instructed to remove union material. However, in a lame defence of its anti-union directive, HR claimed that security had not been told to enter staff offices. One of the staff, who wished to remain unnamed, said:
“The claim by security and HR that this was the result of ‘miscommunication’ seems to me to be an attempt to lay blame on the poorest paid staff. This attempt to remove any union visibility from the workplace needs to be viewed in the context of security’s harassment of NTEU leafletters, the theft of posters from the SRC, the VC’s attempt to hold a non-union ballot on the agreement, and the misrepresentation of the CPSU’s endorsement of the university’s enterprise agreement offer. Together these acts demonstrate a culture of anti-union intimidation – a far cry from the culture of respect and integrity to which the university management lays claim in its strategic plan.”
After the union complained, security “returned” an assortment of posters that weren’t the ones confiscated. It seemed clear that they had instead picked up random posters from around the campus, having presumably disposed of the confiscated material.
Meanwhile, there continue to be reports of union posters being ripped down. It is clear the university feels emboldened by the cessation of the strike campaign and the union’s reluctance to keep fighting. The winding down of the campaign was a victory for the university, and it is now trying to drive home its advantage.
However, as soon as the news of the incident broke, union activists began a “proud to be union campaign”. Union members are encouraging staff to wear union badges, lanyards and stickers, and put up posters in every work area. Given the university’s hostility, this continues to be an important way to resist.