To the dear flustered first-years: welcome to UQ and all the new firsts. Your first time sitting in the wrong class; the first time having your lunch snaked by an ibis; and this past Wednesday, your first staff strike. I’m here with a bit of an explanation.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and associated teaching staff held the strike in protest of pay rises being outpaced by inflation, workload regulation, and job security. No doubt some of you will have had ECPs opened late – that’s because staff aren’t compensated during the holidays.
This is the third strike in the 19 months since the enterprise agreement lapsed in June 2021, with more likely to follow in the coming months if UQ management continues to drag its heels. Since the pandemic, staff have been overwhelmingly converted to casuals; this provides minimal job security, despite many holding the same roles for years.
Alongside this, your lecturers, tutors, and course coordinators have to put in unpaid work to meet deadlines, let alone prepare and deliver quality content to students.
The teaching staff try their hearts out – for anyone lucky enough to be taught by Dr. Poh Wah Hillock in first-year maths, she will be the highlight of your degree and was just voted as Australia’s 2022 Teacher of the Year. UQ’s calibre of staff is incredible, yet their compensation and permanence reflect the complete opposite.
UQ’s Vice-Chancellor Deborah Terry (or Debbie, as she attempts to ingratiate herself) promised in August last year that “…finalising a new financially sustainable EA as soon as possible is a priority and something we are all committed to make happen.” Yet, staff remain unpaid, overworked, and with minimal job security – 19 months of struggling does not exactly scream priority, does it?
The staff aren’t here to guilt you into caring and the people handing out flyers for the next NTEU strike aren’t looking to annoy you. All they’re looking for is what anyone is looking for: a stable job and to be paid. Not so much to ask for, is it?
- The old enterprise agreement that dictates the working relationship of UQ staff expired on June 30 2021, and since then UQ has refused to negotiate a new agreement in good faith.
- Two pay rises have been delivered of 2% (Jan 2022) and 3% (Dec 2022), with inflation currently sitting at 7.8%.
- Casualisation of teaching staff guarantees zero job security, and student learning suffers as staff stretched too thinly to prepare content and provide feedback for assignments.
- UQ’s Vice-Chancellor’s salary is $1.2M a year so an understanding of decent compensation exists, just not for the teaching staff.