Labor disputes have flared up at universities along the eastern coast of Australia, even as resolutions are reached elsewhere. Strikes, demonstrations, and protests have gripped universities in Victoria and Queensland, with more actions on the horizon.
Union leaders have accused university administrators of unnecessarily delaying negotiations and exploiting workplace regulations to push through unsatisfactory wages and conditions.
Australian universities grapple with strikes and protests
University administrators contend that they are offering the highest possible salary increases considering the sector’s financial challenges.
They have offered immediate pay raises as a goodwill gesture, and some negotiation delays were initiated at the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)’s request.
Meanwhile, union leaders have hailed the fight as members accepted administrators’ proposals in three cities within three days.
The offers at Deakin and Macquarie universities and the Australian National University (ANU) include workload protections, restrictions on structural changes, permanent appointments for some casual staff, and cumulative pay increases of up to 20 percent.
They also involve improved employment conditions for indigenous staff, “gender affirmation” leave provisions, and, in ANU’s case, sick leave for casual staff.
However, the situation is not as optimistic at the University of Melbourne, where some union members staged a week-long strike, claimed to be the longest continuous industrial action in any Australian university’s history.
A similar situation occurred at Swinburne University of Technology, where union members said they were striking for the first time in a decade due to the leadership’s “obvious” disregard for staff.
In Queensland, James Cook University (JCU) union members rallied against a management proposal to cut some courses and eliminate 30 academic positions. The university stated that the proposals aimed to ensure a sustainable future.
At the University of Southern Queensland, union members accused management of employing “unnecessarily aggressive” tactics and abandoning an “extremely drawn-out bargaining process” to seek conciliation from an independent mediator.
These disputes reflect ongoing tensions between university staff and administrators over pay, working conditions, and institutional priorities.