Andrew Mills, CEO of the University of Sydney Union (USU), has distanced himself from the organisation’s activities and board union actions scheduled to take place on Thursday 11 and Friday 12 May.
This despite a unanimous vote by the USU board to close the student union and support the strike action on both days. The strike action called for by the NTEU targets pay and working conditions in the run-up to EBA negotiations, with particular frustrations over the easing and failure to protect paid research time.
“The Council passed a motion to support the NTEU’s right to act, but we want to emphasize that this is the Council’s position, not the USU as an operation,” Mills said in the email.
“We have carefully considered what the right course of action is [is] for USU as an organization, given the experience of previous strikes and the impact this has had on our staff and the company itself,” he said.
“However, HostCo has an event on these days that cannot be postponed and so will go ahead.”
In a statement, SRC Education Officers Lia Perkins and Deaglan Godwin condemned the decision of USU management and called on the organization to suspend all operations for the duration of the strike.
“Andrew Mills’ email hurts university workers and students fighting wage theft and secure jobs,” Perkins and Godwin said.
“Staff should not be forced to perform any work and events should not be catered for by the USU. If the USU remains open in any way on May 11, 12 and 24, it will completely erode any semblance of “union” in the institution.”
Further, Mills reported that employees who support the strike should include the period “as annual leave or unpaid leave” in clear signals that USU management does not approve of the union action.
Mill’s email is likely to encourage the left’s long-standing criticism that the USU is a corporate entity that is more responsible for industry stakeholders and profits than student interests. Mills was named CEO last year with a background in managing charitable organizations.
Honi is awaiting comment from USU President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat and will update as soon as he receives it.