What the NTEU Industry Action Means for Students


Staff at the University of Newcastle have been bargaining for better working conditions for close to twelve months. Now, many feel they are left with no choice but to take industry action.


Many industries worldwide have been forced to ride the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, all are struggling to pick up the pieces as the ripples continue. One industry that was hit especially hard was the higher education sector, and the effect can be felt very close to home.


Hundreds of employees at the University of Newcastle felt the impact of job cuts last year. Those who remained then shouldered the burden of many to support students in a changed learning landscape. All the while, the University recorded a surplus of $185million, something you might have heard about earlier this year. Amid calls for that money to be returned to staff and students alike, members of the National Tertiary Education Union decided enough was enough.


The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is the union for all higher education staff Australia-wide, and work towards a “quality, freely accessible higher education system that values students and staff.” Here at the University of Newcastle, NTEU members are calling for more secure work, fairer pay, and a more balanced workload.


Most staff at the University are casual or short-term employees. In fact, according to the NTEU as part of their “Better Workplaces, Better Universities” campaign, up to 70% of university staff across NSW are engaged in casual or fixed-term employment. This permanent job insecurity, alongside reduced renumeration and an increased workload, has spurred NTEU members to speak up. As they put it, “A university that values its staff does not subject them to the stress and uncertainty of permanent insecurity.”


After a year of stalemate negotiations, the NTEU have unanimously voted for industry action. Beginning on August 4, NTEU members will progressively enact:

  1. A ban on participation in staff appraisal processes, and
  2. A ban on responding to management enquiries outside 9am and 5pm on weekdays.


The members recognise that industry action cannot be taken lightly. Although, it has been proven that better outcomes can be achieved when industrial action is on the table, and the NTEU members are hoping to see real progress in the enterprise bargaining by the August 25 as a result. While the impact to students in the early stages should be minimal, the potential for further action is still possible.


Members of the NTEU here at UON are advocating for fairer working conditions to better provide the quality of teaching and learning that we students need. As the NTEU members at the University put it, “We are campaigning to ensure all UON staff have secure work and reasonable workloads, so we can provide the best possible education that students deserve.” So, here at UNSA and Opus, we stand in solidarity with staff taking action and fighting for their rights.


To show your support for our staff, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • Send an email in support of UON staff to University management at eb-feedback@newcastle.edu.au, and CC the NTEU at newcastle@nteu.org.au
  • If a strike or similar action is enacted, show your support by not going to class.
  • Keep an eye on nteu.org.au/newcastle, or your student media here at Opus, for updates.

Stephanie Jenkins

Stephanie Jenkins

Hi, I’m Steph and I use she/her pronouns! I’m a current Creative Writing PhD student and contributor here at Opus. My favourite genre to write is fantasy, but I also love stretching my writerly muscles with reviews, think pieces, and horoscopes. When I’m not writing for Opus, you’ll probably find me with my nose in a book, nomming on some vegan banana bread, or farming my crops on Stardew Valley.