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Issue #1614      October 16, 2013

RMIT staff to strike for a new Enterprise Agreement

Classes were cancelled and services closed for 24 hours last week as RMIT University in Melbourne academic and professional staff went on strike for their new Enterprise Agreement.

Picket lines were established at various points around the campus, as after 14 months of negotiations staff demanded that RMIT senior management stop their delaying tactics and commit to a fair and reasonable Agreement.

Dr Melissa Slee, RMIT branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the union that represents academic and professional staff, said: “The conditions that staff are most concerned about are those that have the greatest significance to students and to the broader community. Senior management of RMIT University have refused to commit to an upper limit on teaching and teaching related duties. This is irresponsible for both staff and students. We are demanding manageable student staff ratios and fair time allocation for class preparation and teaching related duties.”

The NTEU is also demanding greater opportunities for secure employment for casual academic staff. More than 50 percent of undergraduate teaching in Australia is done by casual academics and RMIT University has amongst the highest rates of casualisation in the sector. The union says this is a disgrace. Casual academic staff get insufficient preparation time, training and support which undermines their ability to deliver the quality of education they would like, and that students rightly expect.

“Meanwhile, we have been offered a miserable 3% per annum pay rise which barely scrapes ahead of the cost of living. Our workloads have definitely increased more than 3% in recent times and with more changes ahead the strain on staff will only intensify,” said Dr Slee. “Meanwhile, senior management’s own salaries continue to soar. Six senior executives at RMIT earn more than the Prime Minister. Last year they gave themselves a 6% pay rise and 10% the year before that.

“Management’s intransigence leaves us with little option but to dig in,” said Dr Slee. “We cannot allow the quality of education to suffer due to endless cost cutting, poor staffing levels and an over-reliance on casual labour.  We also will not sacrifice the career prospects or health and wellbeing of hardworking staff in the sector. What we are demanding is fair and reasonable and best for the future of RMIT University.”

Next article – A people’s vision for Australia

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