NOTICE TO REQUISITION GENERAL MEETING
Objects of General Meeting:
1. Special Resolution: Amendment to Section 3 of the Constitution.
To consider, and if thought fit, pass the following special resolution:
That 3.1(a) be amended to read:
a) promote the interests and welfare of the USU and the members of the University community which, where relevant, should include advocating for the learning conditions of University students and the working conditions of University staff through working in solidarity with their trade unions and other student organisations
2. Ordinary Resolution: Our USU Supports Our Teachers.
To consider, and if thought fit, pass the following ordinary resolution, and accept the recommendations therein:
We want to be part of a USU that supports our teachers and their fight for a fair contract.
Why should the USU support university staff by closing its outlets?
1. Staff working conditions are many of the USU’s members’ working conditions. A large proportion of university staff are, after all, members (and alumni) of the USU. It makes sense to prioritise your members over your chequebook in one of their most important struggles.
2. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions. Given that the USU has tens of thousands of student members, and that each member is directly and individually affected by the quality of teaching offered by the University, if the staff union fails or is relatively weak, USU student members suffer.
3. The USU’s full support is critical to the success of strike action. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise: students and staff rely on USU outlets for campus amenities, so closing them would, in a very real way, shut down the campus and deter scabs from attending Uni (strengthening the strike). And, due to its prior scab behaviour, the USU closing its outlets would signal the resolve of students to university management, aiding the staff union in their negotiations.
Isn’t it too costly for the USU? What mitigating factors exist that lower the cost borne by the USU?
1. The USU is in a strong financial position and can absorb the loss without financial hardship. It has approximately $5 million in its reserves. Just by selling its artworks (valued at $199 118 in its 2015 financial report) it could more than cover a full week of strikes. Of course, the USU would still pay its staff that day, just as it normally would.
2. In any event, there are far fewer people on campus on strike days (as most students and staff respect the strike, and are unsurprisingly unwilling to scab). This means that there is decreased demand for USU outlets.
3. To the extent that the USU participates in promoting the strike and discouraging students from attending campus – as it has promised to do so – the pickets will only increase in strength (making it even less likely that students will use its outlets).
4. The reputational risk to the organisation of scabbing on staff is significant, and could be far more costly than the “tens of thousands of dollars” foregone in revenue in that one day. Making enemies of students and staff would be a huge mistake.
You can't put a dollar figure on solidarity. But, if you had to, how much do you think that students’ learning conditions are worth, per student member of the USU? Their academic experience? Anywhere between 12 and 28 hours per week, each week, for 24 weeks, for several years? Wouldn't you put it at least $4 or $5 per student? Which would be, cumulatively, an almost $80 000 valuation for USU members alone?
Given that, wouldn't you prioritise those conditions over the CEO’s bonus (which isn't publicly disclosed, but something that we know is measured in the tens of thousands)? Wouldn't you prioritise those students over the USU hosting a ritzy end of year dinner? At the very least, wouldn't that be a pretty good reason to draw on the over $5 million in the USU reserves, or sell a couple of its artworks?
As a not-for-profit, what we suggest here is hardly a radical approach. No one disputes that the USU exists solely for the benefit of its members; it seeks an operating profit not for its own sake, but so that it can expand and improve the services it provides for all students. There is nothing wrong, and in fact everything right in forgoing a profit in pursuit of a goal that you value more – such as improving the conditions of the entire university community. After all, if the USU were solely ‘profit driven’, it would double the price of its coffee, decide to no longer use Fair Trade equivalent beans, and cut the pay and conditions of its own workers; instead, the USU acts as it should, ethically, promoting student welfare here at home, and workers’ rights both in and out of the union.
The USU has the opportunity to change course. It is a testament to the democratic potential of the organisation that this is possible. We can make it clear that our USU stands with staff, not University management. Let's get it done.
1. To call on the University of Sydney Union to close its commercial operations on strike days called by the trade union/s of and for University staff, and recommend that the Board of Directors of the University of Sydney Union consider at its next meeting a motion to this effect.
2. To call on the Board of Directors of the University of Sydney Union to conduct an entirely public and minuted discussion and vote on deciding whether to close its commercial operations on strike days, at a meeting publicly advertised for that vote.
3. To call on the Senate of the University of Sydney and the Board of Directors of the University of Sydney Union to support the amendment of the Constitution of the University of Sydney Union to include a commitment to work in solidarity with the trade unions of University staff.