Hello one and all, and welcome to the NUPSA newsletter! I know you have been missing us, and I can only blame myself for that. I had some much-needed thesis-only days last week and I so enjoyed it, but it has meant that our newsletter is a little late, so I apologise for that.
I take this opportunity to share with you some information about the NTEU’s strike action against the University. NUPSA comes out in support of the NTEU’s rally against University management, as we firmly believe in the right to fair and equitable working conditions for all UON staff. Whilst (as we all know) postgraduate study can leave us living in our own little bubble, this is something that we as postgraduate students should all be aware of and invested in, and we encourage everyone to show their support for the actions of the NTEU and staff as negotiations move forwards.
The NTEU has been in negotiations with University management for well over a year, to produce a new set of Enterprise Agreements for Professional, Teaching and Academic Staff. The NTEU is seeking reasonable improvements in a few key areas, including equitable superannuation, improved pathways to secure employment, and improved conditions for casual and contract staff. NTEU is also defending existing provisions and protections in areas of misconduct, unsatisfactory performance, organisational change and probation.
The lack of progress on core areas of concern for the NTEU led its members to unanimously vote for a half-day strike and rally, commencing 12.30pm this Wednesday, August 15. We invite postgraduate students to join our lunch-time rally and strike at the Park on the Hill, and join the call for University management to seriously engage with the NTEU’s claims for improved Enterprise Agreements that can provide the basis for good working conditions for all staff, which in turn support good learning conditions for all students.
It is estimated that almost 70% of academic staff are casualised on short-term contracts, in addition to a significant portion of professional staff across the University. This occurs while the University of Newcastle hits record profits, with $336 million in annual surpluses since 2012 and executive pay rises of up to 15% last year according to Rude Health: A NeW look at UON’s finances, released by the Newcastle branch of the NTEU earlier this year. The analysis was recently covered by The Newcastle Herald (‘Unions are arguing staff are paying the cost for university expansion’).
The NTEU’s priorities for enterprise bargaining are:
- to ensure staff have more say during workplace changes
- to improve staff job security
- to defend against unfettered management prerogative
- to negotiate more secure forms of work and better working conditions for staff in insecure employment
- to make Improvements to leave provisions
- to provide greater support for staff career development opportunities
- to negotiate fair pay and superannuation
Why should you care?
As postgraduates, the working conditions of academic staff takes on particular resonance, as many of us are teaching casually, or are looking at doing so in the future. Teaching conditions affect the quality of supervision as further stress is placed on the small amount of permanent staff. Working conditions impact the standard of work of academics whose lack of job security impacts their performance and creates stress in their personal lives, and it creates an unstable working environment for any postgraduate seeking a career in academia.
Dr Tom Griffith, President of the NTEU at UON, says that, “Postgraduate students, whether in coursework or higher degree research programs, directly see and experience the impact on staff working conditions on their studies, and of course postgraduate students make up the bulk of the casual academic labour force in the University. The NTEU is determined to maintain and improve conditions for all staff, with a particular focus on improving conditions and security for those in least secure forms of work.
“Unfortunately, senior management at the University continues to reject NTEU’s claims, and indeed appears to question the NTEU’s right to represent its members in negotiations, while pursuing an agenda that would weaken protections and conditions for staff. The NTEU will continue to advocate for the rights and conditions of all staff, to support high-quality experiences for staff and students.”
NUPSA calls all postgraduate students to come forward and show their support for the NTEU’s actions, and fight for fair working conditions.
What can you do?
- Join the rally at Park on the Hill, on Wednesday, August 15 from 12.30pm to 4pm and show your support for University staff. PLEASE NOTE: if you are teaching during the rally time, you must be a member of the NTEU to legally stop work. If you are unsure about stop work action, contact NTEU at email@example.com.
- If you are employed at the University, join the NTEU! Casual membership is a very low fee, and can be found at https://www.nteu.org.au/join/join/index.
- If you are not employed by the University, postgraduate students get free Associate membership. Details on how to join are at http://www.nteu.org.au/postgrad.
- Send an email of support of UON staff to University management at firstname.lastname@example.org. CC email@example.com in so staff see too!
- Jump online and sign the petition for the Change the Rules campaign, supported by CAPA. You’ll find it here.
Before I leave you to your work, I will drop a few nifty hints about some upcoming exciting events! NUPSA has engaged with the Alumni Network to collaborate on some postgraduate workshops and events aligning with the 2018 Alumni Awards in September, to help you learn some tips and tricks from some of UON’s most successful and inspiring graduates. Game of Games’ registrations are full, but we are taking registrations for a waiting list, and there some rumours of possibly attaining a second bus. Make sure you register for a chance to join the bus trip, win cash prizes, and much more!
Pride Week also fast approaches, with a jam-packed week or trivia, food, our showcase evening and Wear it Purple Day morning tea. Keep your eye out for event registrations and join us in celebrating and supporting our LGBTQI+ students!
With this, I leave you to enjoy the rest of our fabulous newsletter, and the rest of your month!’
Until next time, friends,