THE National Tertiary Education Union is holding a peaceful picket and rally outside the University of Newcastle’s NeW Space building from 10am today to highlight a rare full-day strike by its members over pay and conditions.
In a coincidence of timing, the protesting staff may have a high-profile audience in the form of NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance and Planning Minister Andrew Roberts, who are scheduled to visit the old Civic Station – across Hunter Street in the same block – as part of a light-rail based Revitalising Newcastle inspection.
NTEU branch president Tom Griffiths said yesterday that union members would also be on strike at the Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses but the NeW Space “peaceful picket” was the only public action.
As the Newcastle Herald has reported, the union and university management have been negotiating since June last year over a new enterprise agreement to replace the document that lapsed in March 2017.
Associate Professor Griffiths said it was not until the union voted three months ago for industrial action that the university began to give some ground.
But staff were still concerned about a lack of job security and did not believe the university’s pay offer of 1.9 per cent a year was good enough.
“Two in three jobs at the University are casual or contract,” Associate Professor Griffiths said. “We have a lot of staff employed on annual contracts for 10, 15, and even 20 years, with annual cycles of insecurity about work the following year.”
The Herald was unable to contact the university yesterday but it criticised the previous four-hour stoppage while acknowledging the right of employees to strike under the Fair Work Act.
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