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Australian university union defends silencing socialist and delaying strike action

A sparsely-attended National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) meeting at Western Sydney University (WSU) this week provided another revealing picture of the role of the union.

Western Sydney University. (

First, the branch president defiantly defended his refusal of the microphone to a striking worker and socialist at this month’s half-day strike rally at the university.

Second, backed by union officials, the branch committee proposed that any further strike action be delayed until the Spring semester—five weeks away. That was despite management responding to the limited half-day stoppage by proposing another real wage cut—a pay rise averaging just 2.6 percent a year, far below the soaring cost of living.

At the beginning of the meeting, Michael Head, a longtime university worker and member of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), moved a resolution to condemn the branch president, David Burchell, for denying the microphone to Gabriela Zabala, a striking WSU College lecturer and SEP member, at the half-day stoppage rally.

Head demanded to know why Burchell had asked Zabala if she was speaking as a member of the SEP. “This is open discrimination against socialists. Labor and Greens MPs were featured on the platform, while a socialist, a striking worker herself, was denied the microphone.

“I wish to move: ‘That this meeting condemns the attack on the democratic rights of striking workers constituted by the NTEU branch president refusing the microphone to a striking worker and socialist at the June 7 half-day stoppage rally.’”

Head posted in the meeting chat a link to the WSWS article that published a video of Zabala speaking without a microphone after being denied it by Burchell.

Head pointed out that this was not an isolated incident. Similar political censorship of striking workers, members of the Committee for Public Education (CFPE) and the SEP, had occurred three times at the University of Sydney in recent weeks.

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