‘They will try and low-ball us’ – QUT staff rally outside Chancellery 

A small crowd gathered in front of the chancellery building at Gardens Point. A security guard stands alone on top of the steps away from protesters. Text reads, QUT staff rally outside Chancellery
Staff and students chant ‘workers united will never be defeated‘ outside QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil’s office at Gardens Point, on Wednesday October 5th. NTEU members opted for industrial action in late September after their demands were not met by the University during enterprise bargaining. Photograph by Tom Loudon.

QUT staff members gathered outside the Chancellery today at Gardens Point to protest working conditions and renumeration. 

Almost 100 people converged outside U Block Gardens Point at 12:30 pm October 5th in solidarity with striking QUT staff. 

Among those present was QUT NTEU branch president, Associate Professor David Nielsen, who was eager to bring students along with staff members. 

‘Improvements in staff working conditions translate directly to student learning outcomes,’ Neilsen said.

‘The Fairwork Act’s stipulations are complicated, but essentially taking this action today activates it and then makes further protests possible.’

When asked about planned future action, Nielsen noted that NTEU members from multiple universities will be rallying from 1pm on October 20th.

‘Getting staff from across south-east Queensland universities together will indicate that staff want significant improvements in their pay and conditions,’ Nielsen said.

‘But even smaller actions like telling people why we are taking industrial action can go a really long way.’ 

NTEU bargaining representatives say they are opposed to QUT’s latest proposal to convert sessional academic staff to ongoing positions, which would only reduce the casual positions within the university by approximately 25 FTE, from about 614 FTE. 

The casualisation of university staff has long been a central concern for union members.  

Industrial officer for the Queensland Division of the NTEU, Robert Rule, said the union has been asked by QUT to agree to this set of conditions before a wage offer will be provided. 

‘The NTEU has been asked to agree to a package, when we don’t even know how much wages will increase,’ Rule said.  

‘They will try and low-ball us, we know, and put pressure on us to finish our industrial action this year.’  

‘It would be nice to finish this year, but this proposal is not on staff terms.’ 

Many staff present at the rally were not taking industrial action and were in fact protesting on their lunch break, due to a miscommunication from the union about the protest’s start time. 

But Nielsen says the union is now ‘doing [its] best’ to activate all their approved actions for union members, and this must be done within a set period.

‘We are constrained at the moment, but as we get the ball rolling, we are able to take more widespread action in the future,’ Nielsen said.

The brief rally was attended by some QUT Student Guild executives and Socialist Alternative members, and featured the chanting of slogans, including ‘workers united will never be defeated!’ 

A handful of security guards were a visible presence outside U-Block throughout the rally, even being seen patrolling the area from before midday. 

When asked for comment, a QUT spokesperson said the university respects the rights of the union to undertake industrial action.

‘QUT along with the majority of Australian universities are in the midst of negotiating a new enterprise agreement with a view to achieving a fair outcome in the best interests of our students and staff,’ they said.

‘We continue to work with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the individual bargaining representatives to ensure a fair and equitable enterprise agreement.’

‘We respect the right of those staff who are members of the NTEU to undertake protected industrial action as part of that process and we have been working with the NTEU to ensure that the impact on students will be minimised.’

NTEU members from ACU, Griffith, QUT, and UQ are planning a large rally for October 20th, to take place outside the ABC studios on South Bank. For more information, visit the NTEU QLD website. You can register your interest, here. 

View the full list of staff demands and approved industrial actions, here.

 

More to come. 

 

A single security guard stands alone on the steps of the Chancellery, looking at the crowd of protestors gathered.
The area around U-Block was patrolled by between five and eight security guards in anticipation of the staff rally, on Wednesday October 5th. Once the rally began, security largely ignored protestors or watched on from a distance. Photograph by Tom Loudon.

 

Tom Loudon
Tom Loudon

Tom (he/him) is a Meanjin/Brisbane based writer and the Editor in Chief at Glass Media. He has a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) and is currently studying Communications (Journalism) at QUT.

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