University academics to take unprotected action for jobs and funding

The Network organised protests for funding in March this year

Contributed from Victoria

Hundreds of university academics have come together across Australia under the banner of the National Higher Education Action Network, and they have voted to take unprotected industrial action against job cuts, the fall in government funding, and the changes being made to degrees.

They agreed that this industrial action will be “democratically planned,” as far as possible. It means that decision will be made collectively, through ongoing discussion involving everyone taking part.

Unprotected action means that it is violation of current industrial law, which only allows industrial action during specified bargaining periods connected to allowed enterprise agreement matters.

Universities, unless privately owned, do not get JobKeeper payments, and they have been hard hit by the loss of money from fee paying students and other revenue raising sources during the pandemic.

A deserted Sydney University during the lockdown

The University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales have announced job cuts as they face billions of dollars in losses. Last week, the University of Sydney confirmed that it had sent an email asking staff to “suggest” how to cut up to 30 percent of jobs in some faculties.

In June, the education minister, Dan Tehan, announced sweeping changes that would cut the overall government funding for degrees.

The National Higher Education Action Network meeting that voted on industrial action, represented all major universities across Australia. called on the federal government to increase funding and guarantee the continuation of jobs during the pandemic.

“It was an absolutely national meeting,” said Dr Nick Riemer, a member of the NHEAN and an academic at the University of Sydney. “The conditions we are being asked to work under at the moment are simply intolerable. And the government’s plan for the future of universities are a serious threat to young people and to society.

“People are so outraged at the job cuts, at the changes to universities, that they are ready to stop working. There is a lot of anger in universities at the moment.”

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