On 31 August RMIT staff, students, and members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) took to Bowen Street to protest RMIT’s refusal to meet the union’s demands. This included improved wages, reduced workloads, superannuation equality, and organisational change.
With an audience of approximately 260 people, committee member of NTEU’s RMIT branch Liam Ward addressed the crowd.
“The first victory we had earlier this year was that we forced senior management to come to the bargaining table,” Ward said.
“We’ve waited two years for this… Two years they said no, we’re not gonna talk to you.”
RMIT lecturer Margareta Windisch, who was also in attendance, told The Swanston Gazette that according to the staff agreement they should be working 36.7 hours per week.
“But if you talk to a lot of lecturers and teachers, they would say they work a lot more than that because they cannot fit what they’re supposed to do, what’s required [of them], within those hours,” she said.
As of today, over 60% of RMIT’s workforce is filled by casual employees who also experience unfair workloads without appropriate compensation, but RMIT has denied the union’s demand of a wage increase.
“There has to be a reduction in workload, but also there has to be an increase in wages,” Windisch said.
“If you talk about cost of living and inflation, what the university is saying we deserve would actually, in effect, be a pay cut.”
Another issue is inequality in superannuation percentage and different pay rates.
“We have people doing the same job, sometimes even sitting in the same room, who get different pay rates. Different super,’ says Liam Ward.
There’s no doubt these demands will improve pay and working conditions for RMIT employees, but what does this mean for students?
Margaret Windisch says the changes will provide more opportunities for students to be able to meet with their lecturers and tutors.
“If you have staff that can actually have workloads that are manageable, that means they can also spend more time supporting students as needed,” she said.
Windisch also suggests an improvement in teaching quality.
“You’ll get more opportunities for staff to pay a lot more attention to developing the best and most current material for students… The better staff get treated, the better students will be treated.”
The rally came to a close as Liam Ward conducted a vote for the date of the next strike, which will take place on 13 September.