La Trobe Bendigo staff strike

UPDATE, 3pm: Up to 200 Bendigo La Trobe staff are on strike for 24 hours, starting from noon today.

More than 50 staff attended a video conference this afternoon with other campuses to decide on the stop-work action.

National Tertiary Education Union members will form picket lines at each campus on Thursday morning from 8am.

Earlier: A staff meeting between La Trobe University campuses this afternoon marks the beginning of two days of strikes.

Staff are meeting at each campus, including Bendigo, for a video conference to discuss progress on bargaining for a new industrial agreement, and to voice concerns about job losses at the university.

The meeting will mark the beginning of two days of strikes. 

The strike, originally scheduled for a 48 hours, has been altered to allow members to hear the outcome of negotiations last Friday. While progress was made, the union says the parties are still apart on important issues. 

NTEU La Trobe University Branch president Virginia Mansel Lees said that the loss of 350 staff would mean even heavier workloads for staff.

“Student numbers have increased by around 1,300 this year alone. With 350 less staff, we want to know who is going to be doing the work?” she said.

“It is important that staff working at the university are provided with protections during this period of uncertainty,” she said.

Ms Mansel Lees said that ultimately students and the quality of their education could not be prioritised by the university if they continued to put staff last.

Earlier:

LA TROBE University staff Bendigo campus staff will strike from noon today over job cuts and conditions.

National Tertiary Education Union La Trobe branch vice president (academic) and Bendigo campus staff member Graeme Byrne hopes all union members at the campus will strike.

About 200 of the campus' 450 full-time equivalent staff are members.

"We’re having a meeting at midday and will have a better idea then," Dr  Byrne said.

"Some members will consider their students to be more important than the issues."

Dr Byrne said the main issues staff were concerned about were academic workloads, pay conditions and job cuts.

La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar announced 350 full-time job cuts across the university's campuses in February.

"There will be the same amount of work with 15 per cent less staff," Dr Byrne said.

"Workloads are going to increase, leaving less time for research and administration tasks," he said.

Dr Byrne said a lack of job security combined with the issues of pay and workloads for staff.

"People have really got themselves concerned and worried about their own futures as well as they way the university is treating staff," he said.

Dr Byrne said the university's offer of a 10.25-per-cent salary increase over three years was unacceptable.

"On a comparison with other universities, La Trobe's current pay structure is in the bottom five nationally," he said.

"With this below-average pay offer, our comparison on a national basis will get worse. It begs the question of how much the university values its staff."

A university spokesman said La Trobe was still determining the impact of the industrial action.

"We’re disappointed that the union action has the potential to impact students most," the spokesman said.

"We’re surprised by union claims that negotiations to finalise a new collective agreement have ceased, as that is not the case," he said.

"Talks are ongoing. The university is committed to resolving the new collective agreement to give certainty and clarity to staff."

La Trobe's advice to students is to attend classes as usual.

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