The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), on behalf of staff, are currently in negotiation with the University of Western Australia (UWA). They are negotiating the terms of a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), which sets out the terms of employment for staff working at the University.
At stake for staff are their livelihoods, job security, and intellectual freedom. The NTEU have provided a log of claims listing their demands. Staff are demanding fair pay, stronger rights for casual staff, and more sustainable workloads.
Universities across the country are increasingly relying on casual and fixed term staff. These staff lack job security and are constantly overworked. This has undermined student learning conditions; former tutor Ryan Bunney told The Guardian that he was not paid enough for the time it took to read, let alone mark, student assignments. “The teaching loads are ridiculous,” and this demonstrates “how little the University cares about the quality of education students are getting.”
The past few years have been particularly difficult for UWA staff. The COVID-19 pandemic heavily disrupted their work and they now face a serious increase in the cost of living. In 2021 there were severe job cuts which increased the workload for remaining staff.
Community rally to be held this Thursday:
The NTEU have planned an exhibit and pizza party for members of the University community to demonstrate their support for staff. This event will be held tomorrow, Thursday 4th of May, starting at 1.00p.m. The event will be held at The Great Court, on UWA’s Crawley campus. The Great Court is the grassy space in front of Reid Library. Readers can support staff by signing this petition.
The Student Guild and the NTEU are united in support of staff:
On the 26th of April 2023, the Student Guild Council passed a motion supporting staff and endorsing the NTEU rally on Thursday. Guild President Geemal Jayawickrama expressed his support for staff: “This is an opportunity (…) to help them.”
Dr Sanna Peden, President of the NTEU, UWA Branch, expressed her gratitude for student support. “We are thrilled about the solidarity UWA students are showing us. It makes such a difference knowing that students understand our concerns and are ready to support us in our fight to make UWA a better place to work and study for everyone. This is our shared university, and we’re in this together. (…). You can also tell your tutors and lecturers directly that you’re in their corner—it will absolutely make their day!”
Alevine Magila is the Convenor of the UWA Education Action Network, a student-run activist group. Alevine told me that “solidarity between students and staff during negotiations—and especially in the case of industrial action—is critical. (…). My starting point is recognising that student learning conditions are staff working conditions. Left-wing students should fully support the campaign of NTEU members to secure a better position for themselves in this round of bargaining and to defend their standard of living against stubbornly high inflation.”