Western Sydney University (WSU) staff members turned out in force to strike for more secure jobs and a fair pay rise on Tuesday.
Rallying at Parramatta South campus, staff from both WSU and the College have come together to demand fair pay rises, secure jobs and casual conversion, and flex leave for professional staff.
President of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) WSU Branch Dr David Burchell said that despite negotiating for nearly 12 months, University management had not shifted from a “low-ball pay offer” of a two per cent per annum pay rise.
“In the context of rising costs-of-living, this offer is clearly unacceptable,” he said.
“We had been negotiating for what would be a sector leading casual conversion scheme, but management has taken this hostage to the pay negotiations. With the university having just posted a surplus of $143 million, it can afford a fair pay rise for staff and a significant conversion of casual work into secure jobs.”
Labor Senator for NSW Tony Sheldon, who attended the rally, said the staff’s struggle was an important part of fighting back.
“Right here at Western Sydney University, we’re seeing why a corporatised university management has the gall to only offer a pay increase of two per cent when inflation is 5.1 per cent,” he said.
“At a time when families are struggling with increasing grocery bills, Barney Glover’s university management has put an offer on the table that would send its own workforce backwards in real terms.”
Dr Mehreen Faruqi, NSW Senator for the Greens, also spoke at the strike. Dr Faruqi said she was hopeful for the future of higher education given Labor’s recent election win.
“There is an opportunity here for us to put higher education smack bang into the middle of the political agenda and make sure that it doesn’t drop off until we get what we deserve,” she said.
“Insecure work is a serious crisis and wage theft is systemic, and that is an absolute disgrace.”
Secretary of NTEU NSW, Dr Damien Cahill, believes staff’s efforts during the pandemic is why their demands should be met.
“During the last two years, staff at WSU turned themselves inside out to keep the University afloat during the pandemic. When this is set alongside sky-rocketing inflation, and a massive university surplus, management’s two per cent pay offer is hard to take seriously,” he said.
In a statement, WSU said it continues to work “collegially with the Unions” to reach agreement on outstanding issues, including possible further salary increases.
Ellie Busby is a news reporter for Western Sydney Publishing Group. A graduate of the University of Hertfordshire and Western Sydney University, she is a journalism Major. Ellie has worked with Universal Media, The Cova Project and for a range of other projects.