Why should Sydney Conservatorium students support their teachers?

In this blog I’m sharing the third “explainer” that I made for @SydneyCon students about not only why NTEU members were striking last week, but also why they ought to support that strike by not crossing the picket line (or even joining us on it!). This explainer was a little more chatty…

An NTEU banner at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, reminding students that “staff working conditions are student learning conditions”…

OK, so we all know by now that teachers and professional staff who are Con NTEU members will be on strike on 11th and 12th May, Weds & Thurs this week. 

But did you know that these same Con staff met numerous times last year to make sure that all our concerns were included in the NTEU claims that have led to the current dispute? It is not just a question of protesting the issues on “main campus”!

Highest among the Con staff’s concerns were for the working conditions and insecurity of ‘casual’ teachers at the Con, as outlined in our recent flier “the experiences of your Con lecturers and tutors”. Increasingly the Con relies on this kind of work for your teaching, meaning that your teachers have no job security, no sick days, and no paid holidays. Last year, the university wrote an insulting email to every one of those Con teachers, including some who have taught here for 15 to 25 years, telling them that their work was not ‘regular’ enough to qualify for conversion to permanent employment. 

The way casuals are treated at the Con is bad enough, but there’s more

Absolutely. The poor treatment of your teachers at the Con doesn’t end once they have a permanent position. Teaching workloads at the Con are higher than every other faculty in the university, even though staff are employed on the same agreements and paid the same as teachers on main campus. On top of this, university and Con management have piled on extra work over the last 5 years, especially around the administration of degrees, support of students (until 2017, we had a dedicated team at the Con to do that), reduced professional staff, and that’s all before you take into account the extra work involved in teaching during the pandemic, during which time, the university made a profit.

It still doesn’t end there. Con staff also asked the NTEU to protect the “40:40:20”, the workloads model for your teachers that reserves 40% of our working time for research. At the Con, research might be something quite traditional, like writing a journal article or publishing an analysis, or it might be a creative activity that results in new knowledge being generated, such as a cutting edge composition/production, a completely new interpretation of an existing work, or the performance of a new work. The university wants us to have to negotiate this every year. Only by protecting the 40:40:20 can your Con teachers be sure of having time to do the work that makes them world class performers, composers/producers, and researchers. (I wrote more about that here.)

Your Con teachers also share the pain of the top-down imposition of ill-thought out systems from the managerial levels at Sydney University.

Whether it’s the new timetable system, Sydney Student, the 2 month wait on Special Cons applications, or any one of the other new systems we’ve been forced to take on in the last few years*, we share your pain! 

The managerial class at the university know nothing about teaching and research, and they’re not very good at managing, either. Each one of these new systems dump more work on us, and lessen your student experience. We need to end this inept and wasteful management of a university we all love! 

Share your thoughts about the treatment of your teachers publicly with your friends, family, and on social media. The university should be ashamed of how they treat their employees, and sharing these stories (as well as stories of how much your teachers do for you!) will humiliate them – hopefully back into negotiation. 

* e.g. Unibuy, WorkDay, Sydney Timetable, Zoom, Resource Booker, Services Portal, Akari, Okta, Leganto, Campus Assist, Researcher Dashboard, RECS, PowerBI, and Concur. 

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