1-5 April 2021
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New battlegrounds of class struggle: university workers fight back, with activists from Australia and around the world


About this session

Universities are among the biggest workplaces in a modern city – and can be the sites of important class struggles. The old stereotype of ivory towers populated by overpaid professors is very much at odds with the reality of universities as multi-billion dollar corporations, operated by vicious neoliberal managers exploiting an increasingly casualised workforce.

Covid has sparked a funding crisis in neoliberal universities worldwide, and especially in Australia – a crisis which is being used by governments and management to attack jobs and conditions. This panel will hear from unionists in Australia and around the world about the resistance to these attacks, as well as the long term battle to build fighting unions in this key sector of the economy.

Katie Wood and Liam Ward are leading members of NTEU Fightback. Last year, the leadership of the main union in higher education in Australia devised a wage-cutting scheme which would have allowed management to slash workers’ wages by up to 15%. NTEU Fightback played a leading role in a nationwide rank and file rebellion against these wage-cutting plans, as well as resisting attacks on jobs and conditions.

Feyzi Ismail is a member of the University and College Union at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In recent years union activists at SOAS have organised casual academics, campaigned successfully to reverse the outsourcing of cleaning and other support staff, and organised major strikes over pensions and job security.

Recommended Reading

NTEU Fightback: Rank and file rebellion in a most unlikely unionin Marxist Left Reviewby Diane Fieldes and Jordan Humphreys
The neoliberal transformation of higher educationin Marxist Left Reviewby Rebecca Barrigos
The threat of strike brings victory at SOASin Counterfireby Feyzi Ismail
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