The Guardian 8 June, 2005
Education unions fight back
Upwards of 8000 workers in the tertiary education sector rallied across the state last Wednesday against the Howard government's proposed industrial relations reforms. The rallies, backed by all unions in the sector, were well attended by academic and general staff from universities and TAFE institutions.
"This was not a rally against the bosses", said National Tertiary Education Union NSW secretary Chris Game. "This was a rally against the Howard government's IR agenda."
The message sent out from last Wednesday's rallies, held in Sydney and major regional centres, was that the changes would be bad for tertiary education.
"They will affect teaching quality, the capacity for unbiased research and lessen the autonomy of universities."
Part of the government's agenda is the imposition of non-union Australian Workplace Agreements (individual work contracts) on staff under threat of funding being taken away from universities.
TAFE teachers and staff echoed the concerns of universities, with the federal government threatening a privatisation by stealth — handing training over to for-profit institutions behind TAFE's back.
"We will defend students' access to TAFE facilities and an affordable TAFE system", said Phil Bradley from the NSW Teachers Federation. "From here we will continue to urge the membership to take part in the major union campaign against Howard's legislation that is designed to force us back into the masters-and-servants conditions of the nineteenth century.
"The response by academic and general staff show that a majority are concerned about the impact of this agenda. We will be participating in the various state-wide union activities that are planned for the near future."