Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, writes UoA student and Unite Union Co-President Xavier Walsh.
Being loud to get the point across is something I’ve gotten good at while being a student here at UoA. So, on Thursday 6 October, I went to the picket to wave my giant red Unite Union flag in solidarity with staff on strike at Auckland and Massey universities.
With a 7.3% inflation rate, staff at every one of our universities are striking for an in-line pay rise to combat the brutal cost of living crisis. As students, we know the pain inflation is causing our bank balances—RIP to the Starbucks girlies. I, for one, know that my “Cindy bucks” or cost of living payment has been incredibly helpful. In a country where a mince and cheese pie costs more than $5 (when it’s not even the best flavour…), it’s hard to disagree.
Many university staff have gone above and beyond during years of global disruption. Staff are working longer hours, with fewer colleagues to support them, and taking care of a record number of 3am student breakdowns. Student well-being is falling apart, and much of that is put on the shoulders of the staff.
UoA attempted to turn students and staff against one another when they expressed their “disappointment” at a time important to student learning and as we prepare for our finals. In their email on Wednesday 5 October, the message was to continue with “business as usual”—business as usual being a $100,873,000 operating surplus last year AFTER TAX, none of which is seemingly going into student services or staff wallets.
As students, our lives are deeply intertwined with the choices of the university. Our resources, communities, and representation are tied to the institution. Our degrees are valuable because of their reputation. When the university sours their image, they sour ours. When under-resourcing staff, they’re under-resourcing our education.
UoA can afford inflation-matched raises and living wage conditions. Again, they made a $100 million profit in 2021 alone. We need staff with good working conditions so we can get good degrees.
And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that some of our fellow students are also staff—they’re the lowest paid TAs, GTAs, and library workers who need an inflation-adjusted pay rise more than anyone, to support their study.
By standing in solidarity with the staff, outcomes will improve for students. It’s solidarity 101. If we don’t support striking workers, we are supporting the status quo, which is university management’s continual degradation of academia.
Speaking to staff after the strike, it is clear they see the University is letting down students as much as staff. We have the opportunity to work together to ensure movement on staff wages. University management certainly isn’t on our side, but the staff are, so we should work together.
“I think it’s good to see students who can tell the difference between those who teach them in the classrooms and those who collect their fees.”—Professional Teaching Fellow Andrew Dawson, Stuff.
We must work with staff to make the University a better place for students. The future of this institution depends on the cooperation and support of staff and students together. The staff know it, and we should too.
So, next time staff are on strike, get out there and make some noise!
When workers’ rights are under attack, stand up, strike back! Here’s what you can do to support striking staff:
- Come along to the next strike or rally and give your support in person!
- Give AUSA your thoughts on their (lack of) support for our staff and their claim for a fair pay rise!
- Email Vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater (email@example.com and CC firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) letting her know you support striking staff.