UOW staff strike over pay

Hundreds of University of Wollongong academics have made their voices clear at a rally on Wednesday.

They want permanent work, fair pay and respect.

National Tertiary Education Union members marched around the university Duckpond Lawn during a two-hour strike.

Members passionately spoke at the rally and the 300-strong crowd were vocal in support.

Union branch president at UOW, Associate Professor Georgine Clarsen said the union had been at the negotiation table with university management for more than eight months to try to finalise two bargaining agreements for professors and staff.

“Very little real progress has been made on the negotiations of the agreements,” she told protesters.

“We are nowhere near seeing a fair pay offer from management nor have they satisfactorily ensured they would reduce the number of staff on insecure work. Management also want to take out protections for staff such as review committees.

“It shouldn’t be this hard to come to an agreement. The union want to negotiate in good faith. We want to get it done and get back to work.”

The crowd booed, yelled ‘shame’, applauded and cheered during the rousing speech.

The protesters then marched around the campus, led by drummers, chanting a ‘war cry’: “what do we want – secure work, fair pay and respect”.

Union members held signs that read ‘strike today’, ‘change the rules’, ‘secure work’, ‘fair pay’, ‘respect’ and ‘sign the petition’. 

Many threw their fists in the air in support of the war cry and union flags were waved. Protesters also yelled out ‘shame’ in an attempt to embarrass Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings.

Full time UOW history teacher Jen Roberts knows first hand how difficult it is working on a contract basis.

She was a casual teacher for 14 years and felt passionately enough about the cause to take industrial action.

“As a causal teacher you don’t get paid from November to March,” Ms Roberts said. “No one can live on no income, especially over the Christmas holiday period.

“Most casual teachers need to have a second or third job. It is hard to get loans and you have to juggle pay cheques.”

Onlooker Meritxell Garcia stopped to listen to the war cries as the protesters marched around the grounds. The third year Bachelor of Arts student said the rally was “powerful”.

“I was surprised by how many people turned up to the rally,” she said. “I support what the staff are asking for because they deserve equal rights and pay.”

Union members will meet on Friday to vote on whether to strike for a full day later this month.