Editorial Assistant Sophie Poredos, who attended the MQ NTEU student rally, sheds light on the ongoing struggle for better staff working conditions.
If you just studied for your exams in overcrowded classes and lecture halls, you may have noticed the inadequate staff numbers per student. If you came out of said exams, you may have heard the rally of purple t-shirts, tambourines and bold signs in the Central Courtyard. On the 31st of May 2023, Macquarie staff stopped work for an hour with support of the The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), advocating for better staff working conditions, pay and job security.
Macquarie University staff have faced wave after wave of restructuring from the culls during the 2020 Covid-lockdowns to the recent “restructuring” of the “Professional Services Transformation”. Whilst these events were labeled as “necessary” to reduce costs after the loss of international students in 2020, over 300 staff who were given redundancies have not been adequately replaced, with even whole departments lost such as Earth and Environmental Science.  On top of this, many casual staff felt very bitter at the rally as the Vice-Chancellor took home an annual salary of over a million dollars in 2020, though they are forced to continuously live paycheck to paycheck. 
The effect of staff cuts on students? Macquarie University has the worst student-staff ratio in Australia of 1:69.  This means that there are less resources and spaces for students to ask questions, despite the rising university course fees.
Staff at the rally were advocating for four requirements:
Increased pay rises in accordance with the cost of living and to suit their overtime (As Macquarie’s current pay rise is below other universities in Sydney.).
Improved services management to restructure the broken MQ systems currently in place.
Casual staff job security.
Fair and reasonable workloads.
When interrupted on the lack of values that this rally demonstrated by an opposing university member, James Hazelton associate professor of accounting had to say, “How dare you presume to lecture [us] on Macquarie University values. We live those values everyday.”
This seemed to be the core message at the rally; Macquarie University staff have a passion for teaching and a strong drive to watch their students succeed. However, there is a massive discrepancy in their scheduled work hours and the overtime they are completing, just to hand back student assignments on time.
After the rally, I sat down with the newly elected SRC Arts representative and member of the MQ Socialist Society, Will Glen. Will promises to bring a greater level of activism on campus issues and broader social matters regarding the environment, Indigenous and queer rights. When I asked about his response to students criticism of this staff stoppage, his response was:
“You’re playing into the hands of management. What management consciously tries to do is create a false divide between students vs teachers… Professional staff are doing the jobs of up to 6 people at once. It's the same people who cut these staff jobs, who cut the courses that go along with these jobs as well. In the Arts faculty, its over 50% of units including whole degrees such as film degree, [that] are gone. So this is a thing that affects staff and students equally. If the conditions of staff got better, they would be able to provide a better quality of education…If you hate the quality of education at Macquarie University, you should be fully supportive of actions like these.”
Photographs: taken by Sophie Poredos with permission
 Macquarie Student Activist Group. “Save our staff! Macquarie University Student Petition Against Staff Cuts.” Megaphone, 2021,
 Guthrie, James. “Macquarie U Finances: A Lack of Cash and Reliance on Debt.” Campus Morning Mail, 5 Jun. 2022, https://campusmorningmail.com.au/news/macquarie-u-finances-a-lack-of-cash-and-reliance-on-debt/.
 “World University Rankings 2021.” Times Higher Education, 2021, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2021/world-ranking#!/page/0/length/-1/sort_by/stats_student_staff_ratio/sort_order/asc/cols/stats.