What is the University Worker-Student Assembly?
The assembly organises and agitates around the daily conditions of university workers and students. It is a space for raising grievances in our workplace and organising together through concrete and direct actions that improve conditions and build a culture of solidarity across the University of Sydney and beyond.
I don’t know how many student rallies I’ve been to over the last 12 months, but it feels like an awful lot. After a while, they’ve all merged together in my mind into one overall student rally blur. I guess it’s not hard for this to happen. With minor variations, it’s the same thing every time: same march route, same chants, same placards, same speeches. The same number of about 300 marchers turns out every time and, increasingly, these 300-odd marchers seem to be exactly the same people every time, too.
Cops off campus, cops out of our lives…
Syd – UK – everywhere.
In a continuation of the struggles that have occurred at Sydney University in 2013, some workers dropped a banner from the busy Parramatta Rd footbridge declaring ‘COPS OFF CAMPUS, COPS OUT OF OUR LIVES’. The timing of this action is in solidarity with those in the UK who today will take action against the brutality of the police – management’s attack dogs – who have sought to crush the actions of workers and students fighting against the university’s increasing role in ensuring the precarity of all our lives.
We have faced similar circumstances at Sydney University this year. Here, university workers took an unprecedented 7 days of strike action against the erosion of working conditions. In particular, they took action in response to management’s unceasing drive to make us all live our lives on the very edge of certainty. They call it flexibility, we call it bullshit. Many students joined the picketlines, seeing the relation between staff conditions and their unsettling experience of university. This experience is defined by the pursuit of qualifications in an attempt to ensure access to an increasingly insecure job market. Of course, many students are already casual workers somewhere
Faced with such hostility, management turned to their friends in blue. Many arrests, ongoing court cases and harassment, and a broken leg for one picketer were the result. We have also overall seen a generalised increase in police presence on campus, sending a message that they are there ready to have management’s back. We take this action in solidarity with those struggling in the UK and as a small first step in forcing cops off campus and out of our lives.
Love and solidarity from Sydney.
by Karen Elliot
On the 5th of June we were wrongfully arrested for trespass at Sydney University during an industrial action.
11 July 2013
To the university authorities of University of Sydney, Australia
In the honour of solidarity between the peoples of the world, from Honduras, we learnt of the abuses by police against university students and workers and other people who fight for better conditions at this University. These people had their rights violated: we demand an end to this repression.
We join our voices in calling for the respect of people’s integrity and for a liberatory education.
1. From the formal level of dispute to the submerged politics of work at the university
The industrial dispute at the University of Sydney currently represents one of the key conflicts involving higher education and the education economy more broadly in Australia. The acuteness of the antagonism at USyd is growing increasingly sharp. Over the past 24 months university management have made a series of decisions that have made university workers angry and lose trust. For example the handling of the library restructures since early 2011, the announcement of 350 job cuts across general and academic staff in late 2011 – early 2012, and most recently the approach to the enterprise agreement has created sharp antagonism leading into the bargaining of the enterprise agreement. A recent survey conducted by the university shows that more than 75% of respondents have no faith in the university management.[i] All of this represents good reason to be pissed off, and demonstrates its actuality. Yet it would be a mistake to think that all this anger is simply funnelled through the enterprise agreement, or that reaching even a favourable agreement will be able to resolve this anger. Whilst the dispute now is ostensibly focussed on the details of the enterprise agreement, beneath these formal dimensions there is a submerged world of the daily politics of work that is in fact the key terrain animating the antagonism.
It didn’t take long for the arrests to start at yesterday’s strike. Barely an hour into the day’s action, and an attack by massed riot police on the Carillon Avenue picket line had netted six people. No more than 45 minutes later, a further five were in police custody. Thus, within the space of two hours, the number of people arrested in the semester-long industrial dispute at the University of Sydney had tripled.
From the outset, the police were determined to make arrests. Cops on bicycles roamed around inside the university grabbing those that they could identify as activists. At the campus gates, the previous tactic of crashing into pickets and driving them off the road was abandoned in favour of dragging demonstrators into paddy wagons. Many observed police distributing photos of prominent organisers, several of whom were hit with bizarre and seemingly arbitrary charges throughout the day. One student, who had been consistently pummelled during previous strikes, was singled out for standing in the path of a bicycle for no more than a few seconds, arrested, thrown to the ground, then repeatedly stomped in the face. Others were charged whilst walking along footpaths outside university grounds. Another was arrested simply for swearing.
What follows here are five quick thoughts on re-imagining the university. Most of this is a simplistic reformulation of work done by colleagues of mine in the Urmadic University project*. These thoughts come in the context of the much welcome, exciting, and serious questioning of the university that has emerged during the recent industrial dispute at the University of Sydney. My hope is that these ideas might make a useful contribution to the ongoing discussions and moves towards changing the university.
On the morning after the May 14 Sydney University strike, I woke up to an empty house. It was 11am, my housemates had both left for the day, and the place was silent and completely deserted. For a few minutes I stumbled around towards the kitchen but then, suddenly overwhelmed by the events of the previous day, I sat down on the floor and started sobbing uncontrollably.
I’ve been on picket lines before, have screamed my lungs out at the cops, and have watched people get arrested alongside me, but I’ve never seen so much violence as I witnessed that day. Again and again and again, the police crashed into our picket lines with overwhelming force. Next to me my friends, people I had just met, and others who I didn’t even know, were shoved, trampled, choked, torn away and violently thrown to the ground. One student was punched in the head, another broke his leg, and another almost passed out after being placed in a headlock. Every time a car refused to respect our lines and tried to cross, the police would go on a rampage and attack us. Eventually, I lost count of how many times this happened.