48-hour strike over job cuts

La Trobe University’s Wodonga students face disruptions later this month with a planned 48-hour strike by academic staff.

The National Tertiary Education Union says the action is in response to the university’s recent announcement of more than 350 job cuts and a “breakdown” in contract negotiations.

The union’s La Trobe branch president Virginia Mansel Lees said yesterday they would finalise plans for the March 26 and 27 strike after consultation with members.

“There will be disruptions because there won’t be classes from those people taking directed industrial action,” she said.

“Something will be done at each campus, but exactly what I’m not sure.”

Ms Mansel Lees said she understood student numbers would increase at the same time as the cuts, raising concerns staff would be left overworked and underpaid, with research and teaching compromised.

“There’s a lot of angst around the jobs going and the insecurity of those people and the workload of those people left behind,” she said.

“Intellectual knowledge will walk out the door.”

Ms Mansel Lees said student numbers had increased by 1300 this year alone.

“Class sizes keep getting bigger and staff workloads are getting out of control,” she said.

“University management must outline how they will protect staff against further cuts, spiralling workloads and career security.”

While she couldn’t confirm attendance numbers, Ms Mansel Lees said the union was hoping for a good turnout at the first 48-hour strike at the university.

A La Trobe University spokesman said they were “surprised” the union claimed negotiations had broken down.

“We are committed to negotiating a new collective agreement to provide clarity for staff,” he said.

“We have been in regular and sustained discussions, right up to today, with senior union officials and representatives on progression of the collective agreement.”

The spokesman said the job cuts would bring improvements.

“The university community is being kept fully informed of the need for change and the need for productivity improvements in the way we do our work,” he said.

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