The ongoing industrial dispute between the University of Tasmania and the National Tertiary Education Union over staff enterprise agreements has spilled over to the student union and sparked a debate over appropriate industrial action.
The Tasmanian University Union has turned against the NTEU after students were issued a letter by the staff union warning that students assignments and exams may be affected as industrial action is considered.
The University of Tasmania has been in negotiations with the NTEU over a new staff enterprise agreement for more than a year.
A spokesman for the university said the bargaining process “has continued longer than the University hoped” and a good-faith interim pay rise was awarded to all staff in July.
However, despite the University saying talks were continuning in good faith, the NTEU has warned their members will take industrial action against the university to withdraw labour.
TUU council president Clark Coolkey said many students were already stressed about university results and the threat of having their results withheld due to staff action could risk holding up student graduations and careers.
“While students start to prepare for end of year exams the last thing they need to worry about is university staff not undertaking their responsibilities,” he said.
“We encourage the NTEU to consider alternate options of industrial action. One which does not play with student wellbeing, such as strikes outside of normal study semesters.”
A petition was launched by a student group and circulated by the TUU to ask the NTEU to adjust their industrial action.
The NTEU issued a statement on social media in response expressing their disappointment that the TUU was not supporting the university staff in their bid for better working conditions, and that staff were deeply invested in the wellbeing and the future of their students.
The union pointed the finger at the university for dragging its feet through the bargaining process and delaying the outcome of the negotiations and forcing staff to take action.
“Members feel that the only way they can change the power imbalance is to escalate their industrial action to include bans in the preparation and delivery of teaching and bans on the transmission to the university of student results,” the statement said.