University of Wollongong staff and students protested at the Northfields Avenue entrance today, Monday 22 May, demanding management address their claims of chronic job insecurity and calls for pay increases.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) UOW Branch President Professor Fiona Probyn-Rapsey said staff had been negotiating with management for 10 months for fair pay rises and action to reduce the amount of casualisation of staff.
“Despite our best efforts, management is yet to accept that we need a plan to reduce casualisation of staff at our university,” she said.
“We also don’t have a fair pay offer that acknowledges the real impact of inflation on so many staff. Too many of them continue to experience extreme overload in their hours of work.”
The union says there are “hugely skilled” staff who have been regularly delivering work for many years who remain employed as casuals, not knowing from one session to the next if they will have ongoing work.
Following the protest, staff held a two-hour stop work and have threatened more industrial action “over coming weeks and months” if management failed to act in negotiations for the new enterprise agreement.
In a statement, a UOW spokesperson said the uni’s negotiation team had been meeting regularly with both the NTEU and representatives of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) to negotiate in good faith for the benefit of staff, students and the University’s long-term sustainability.
“While several issues remain unresolved, the discussions have largely been positive and productive with agreements reached on a number of matters,” the statement said.
“Despite today’s industrial action, the University remains confident that further agreements can be reached through negotiation. Further meetings with NTEU and CPSU representatives are scheduled for 25 May.”
Professional staff member and member of the NTEU negotiating team Angela Cowan said staff were “simply asking for a better workplace”.
“We’ve seen so many great staff leave our university due to the economic impacts throughout the COVID pandemic,” Ms Cowan said.
“It is time for our university management to restore trust with staff and come to the party on fair pay, secure jobs and safe workloads, for both Professional and Academic Staff. Wollongong Uni management should not be holding out.”
Prof Probyn-Rapsey said other university managements, including at the University of Technology and Western Sydney, have engaged meaningfully with union claims and were settling on Enterprise Agreements “with a secure jobs plan, fairer pay outcomes and better protections against unsafe workloads”.
“We simply want a better workplace at UOW – that will mean a better university for students and our community,” she said.