Click through for gallery of the two days. Read what the strikes are about in the open letters from staff available here.
I did not strike for fun. Or for money. It is the first industrial action I’ve ever been involved with as anything other than a supporter. I won’t get paid for the days I was on strike. I was on strike because the changes being proposed by the senior management of the University represents a significant and to my mind an unsatisfactory shift in the way we think about university and education more generally. The more the university operates as a corporation the less it represents a public good and the less education, knowledge and reason are considered valuable common goods (in the ethical sense) in an of themselves. The proposed changes to the working conditions at the university are attempts at re-configuring the university from being a public good to a private commodity. The attempt to remove collective bargaining, through the removal of the unions, from the agreement is an attempt to set up a situation where working conditions for the least powerful, least privileged and lowest paid workers in the university are utterly dis-empowered. It is nothing else but union-busting.
The changes proposed, which see reductions in leave provisions, commitments to reasonable workloads, commitments to a fair and just workplace and below inflation salary increases, repeat the politics of austerity that the world has seen as a response to the global financial crisis (or crises) in which the need “to tighten belts” inevitably means that those who wield and benefit from state and corporate power – those who in fact created the crisis – are continually rewarded while those with the least responsibility and the least means to respond and the least means to afford the austerity measures are told, repeatedly, that it is they who must bear the burden. The Vice Chancellors and his deputies have awarded themselves bonuses between $61,000 and $169,000 while telling everyone else that there is no money for anything else. In the same way, as the bankers of the world receive billions in “bailout” funds – which is to say, billions of tax money from citizens – it is those citizens that are then asked again to reduce their wages, work longer, have their social services cut. While they are repeatedly told that those getting the bonuses cannot afford to pay a little more, or be brought to justice because they are simply too important to be prosecuted.
Striking and supporting the strikes at the University of Sydney is an action against the removal of the university as a common good, the cutting of my working conditions without compensation (not necessarily financial) and an action against an instance of the global politics of austerity that so well serves the rich and so poorly serves everyone else.
The problem is not a lack of money, it is a lack of leadership.