LTU strike: 'Students deserve more'

UPDATE, 3PM THURSDAY: La Trobe union members were pleased with support they received at a picket line during their 36-hour strike.

About 50 La Trobe University Bendigo staff participated in the picket line between 7.50am and noon on Edwards Road to protest against job cuts, pay and conditions.

The National Tertiary Education Union members held signs reading “15 per cent fewer staff? Students deserve more", “Quality work demands quality pay” and “You can’t put students first by putting staff last".

NTEU La Trobe branch vice president (academic) Graeme Byrne said there were constant numbers of about 20 people at the picket line, with members attending for a few hours at a time despite rain.

Dr Byrne was pleased with the reception they received from drivers entering the university.

"A number of people decided to honour the picket and turned around," he said.

"It would have been a couple of dozen at most and we appreciated it. 

"But we weren't trying to stop people from coming in, we just wanted to make our point."

EARLIER:

LA TROBE University Bendigo union members braved the rain this morning protesting against job cuts and conditions.

They held signs reading “15 per cent fewer staff? Students deserve more", “Quality work demands quality pay” and “You can’t put students first by putting staff last".

In rain coats and holding umbrellas, the National Tertiary Education Union members started at 7.50am and there were about 20 at the Edwards Street gate by 8.45am.

Up to 200 members will remain on strike for the rest of Thursday, adding up to 36 hours.

Staff members are on a roster to man a picket line until the afternoon. 

National Tertiary Education Union La Trobe branch vice president (academic) and a senior lecturer at the Bendigo campus Graeme Byrne said he expected 60 to 70 jobs to be targeted in Bendigo as part of the university's planned 350 job cuts.

"A lot of people are not ready for retirement and can ill afford to lose their jobs," Dr Byrne said.

"There will be less people and no less work to do.

"Students are the ones who will have less teachers and less support, particularly first-year students who need it most."

Deputy Head of the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department Mary Martin said the university's enterprise bargaining agreement expired in June, 2012.

"It’s more than 18 months ago," she said.

"If the university wants to transform and restructure then it really needs to settle the EB first. It’s like putting on socks before shoes.

"Then we can plan for the future and cooperate with management."

Ms Martin and her colleagues are concerned about a  workplace clause in the proposed agreement that uses a points system to measure workloads.

"Most staff believe measuring work in hours is a much better system," she said.

"We work in hours, we don't work in points."

​Ms Martin said it was not surprising staff were unhappy.

"They’re offering pay cuts on top of that," she said.

"They are expecting us to embrace change but there is no respect."

Ms Martin said most people driving through gate 3 were supportive of the protest.

"They are winding down their windows and taking the information which is the point of it all," she said.

A La Trobe spokesman said the university was committed to resolving a new collective agreement to give certainty and clarity to staff.

He advised students to attend classes as usual.

More coverage: La Trobe Bendigo staff strike - Day 1

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