Posted by: asprockett | March 27, 2013

Crossing the Picket Lines, Take 2

Today marks the third day of staff strikes at the University of Sydney for members who are part of one of two unions at the school. The first was a single day strike during the second week of classes, with a 48 hour strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Staff are upset by a number of changes proposed by University leadership. Some of these changes include:

  • Eliminating limits on how many casual employees can be employed at the University of Sydney. Casual employees do not earn sick pay or holidays, and face tenuous job security.
  • Adapting the change process. This means University management would not need to consult staff members before making decisions to cut jobs.
  • Cutting wages. Staff have been offered a 2% pay raise each year, which is lower than the cost of inflation. Ultimately, this reflects a real-life pay cut for staff.

However, not all staff at the University of Sydney are part of one of these unions, so many classes still continue as normal. Students have the option to attend or to not attend class, based on their personal preference. My classes during the first day of strikes were canceled, but on Tuesday, classes were still being held as normal.

As an international student, my visa requires that I attend class and make good progress toward my degree. But that’s not the factor that encouraged me to choose to cross two sets of picket lines to attend class on Tuesday.

Protesters block the way to campus at Sydney Uni. (But isn't the school you see in the background beautiful?)

Protesters block the way to campus at Sydney Uni. (But isn’t the school you see in the background beautiful?)

I have come to the University of Sydney to learn as much as possible about International Public Health in a program condensed to only one year. With a husband destined for academia, I fully support the staff decision to strike. But I am frustrated that I have been asked by many student organizations not to attend class to stand in solidarity with the union members who are on strike. I do not appreciate being made to feel bad about pursuing my educational opportunities and making the decision that is right for me, given my limited time at Sydney Uni. Unfortunately, it just isn’t possible to explain that to a group of picketers who are blocking your way, passing our flyers and yelling at you with megaphones.

Let’s hope University leadership gets this figured out promptly and positively.

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