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Who is The Fox?

Welcome to the fifth issue of The Fox, a fortnightly newsletter written by and for casualised, unemployed, and precarious workers from the university sector and beyond! The Fox is a tool for a more connected, informed and powerful coalition of workers, ready to bite back when provoked. Please forward this newsletter to those who need to read it.

Do you have something to contribute or something you’d like us to talk about? Write to The Fox’s editorial team at


On Motion GC3


The following is a transcription of a speech given by ANU casual representative and National Tertiary Casuals Committee (NTCC) member, Lina Koleilat at last month’s NTEU National Council. Lina’s speech opened debate on Motion G3C, put forward by the NTCC through the NTEU National Executive.

Motion G3C, which calls for a discussion paper on the need to grant the much needed voting rights to NTCC members attending National Council and an NTCC observer seat on National Executive, was ultimately carried but as Lina notes, the process of getting the motion to National Council involved considerable consultation with the executives which watered down the original language and demands of the motion significantly. Lina also responded to dismissive claims made by other councillors that NTEU casuals networks are a ‘special interest group’, that casual members are being sectarian and that all university workers (regardless of their employment status) are equally precarious.   

However, members of CUPUW who attended National Council were roused by Lina’s speech and the supporting arguments of other casual comrades who used the motion as a chance to speak candidly to the experience and obstacles of casuals’ organising in the NTEU. Enjoy.



Motion on “Strengthening the Representation of Casualised Workers in the NTEU”

Hello everyone, as a bit of background, this motion started with two simple clauses:

  1. Members of the National Tertiary Casuals Committee (NTCC) asking for voting rights on National Council 
  2. and NTCC asking for an observer seat on National Executive (NE).
But unfortunately, after negotiating back and forth with National Executive, the two clauses became two pages and this motion is now so watered down. You are only voting today on a discussion paper which is supposed to map out why we need the above two clauses.

I would like to address three arguments that we are often hearing against casual members’ demands:

1) First is that we casually employed members are an “interest group” and that if other interest groups at the NTEU ask for voting rights on Council and a seat on NE mayhem would occur.

Actually, we casual members encourage and support other interest groups in this union and we will stand by them and fight with them if they would like to fight for representation and voting rights, and what is wrong with that? Since the NTEU is a democratic union!

But also it is frankly deeply offensive, comrades, to call casualised members an "interest group". 

We are the 40%, we are the underclass of this crumbling higher education sector we are the workers on whose wage theft universities are functioning on. Not one or two universities, the whole sector!

Nobody sees that type of employment as an “Interest”.

2) Second, the argument that NTEU casualised members are here dividing the union or being sectarian. 

We casualised workers are not here to divide this union, we stand here with you in solidarity, we are still here, without sick leave without parental leave sometimes without access to the library, to an office or a desk to work on.

We are still here.

Unable to get sick, unable to plan six months ahead, unable to plan a family.

Disrespected, disregarded, excluded from meetings, public events, email lists and every decision making process of our universities.

We are here after many of us have lost our jobs, and we are not even part of the university statistics.

We are not here to divide this union, we are here to fight for our basic rights in this union.

3) Thirdly, the argument we heard yesterday, that we all are insecure workers in the higher education sector. 

Yes we are all insecure workers in this economy, the way higher education is being attacked by this foul government makes us all insecure, yes. But some of us comrades are more insecure than others. Casual friends and colleagues are living paycheck to paycheck. Some of us get sick and hospitalized and we lose income for that. Yes we are all insecure but some of us get redundancy pay and some of us don't. 

But this is not a fight to the bottom.

Finally to wrap up: We, your casual colleagues are not an interest group, we are not here to divide this union and no we are not all similarly insecure. We are here to fight for a democratic fighting union that is equipped and ready for the current economic crisis because frankly this is not only an issue for the NTEU but an issue for the whole union movement in Australia, especially those unions with tiered membership like ours. 

I commend to you this motion today as you all have the right to vote on it and we don't.

Why We Need Deep Organising

Deep organising is an approach popularised by American organiser and author Jane McAlevey. It emphasises the agency of rank and file union members and the gradual development of strike readiness. This approach differs from ‘mobilising’ approaches most importantly in the way that worker power is conceptualised. Service or business unions spend most of their time negotiating with the employers and other stakeholders (such as governments), mobilising workers infrequently for specific campaigns. Deep organising places central importance on building and fortifying workplace structures through face to face conversations. This is required for majority and supermajority actions—actions driven by the will of the membership. 

CUPUW members attended the August-September 2020 Strike School with Jane McAlevey—in cooperation with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—along with thousands of other union members. The principles of deep organising have informed labour strategies for generations, but there has been a recent uptick in interest in the method. It is an approach that seeks to reorientate unions away from servicing and back towards organising. Given that they’re decentralised and close to the workforce, casuals’ networks are best placed to adopt deep organising as a method of self-organisation. Deep organising is the arduous and ‘unsexy’ work necessary to lay the foundations for effective industrial action. There are many reasons to commit to this approach:


1. University workers, particularly precariously employed ones, have major demands of their employers. These demands, such as fair pay and secure employment, are morally powerful. This means little to most employers, including university managements. If we want them to give in to our demands (some of which will require the comprehensive revision of both universities’ business models and government funding models), we need to pose a serious and credible threat to the normal functions of universities. If we cannot pull off majority actions, we’re not a threat.

2. Our ability to legally carry out industrial action is severely constrained by Australian industrial relations laws. However, we cannot afford to only carry out industrial action within an enterprise bargaining period; we must confront the prospect of being exposed to punitive measures such as fines and stand downs. Also, many of us reasonably expect to be punished by our bosses if we take industrial action—even if we take action legally. In conjunction with a healthy strike fund, majority participation in actions work to offset the risks posed by lopsided industrial laws and vindictive bosses: they cannot fine and sack everyone. 

3. Although COVID-19 has exposed the university sector’s reliance on international student fees and cheap labour, these problems and others were well known before 2020 and baked into the corporatised university model increasingly prominent in Australia and elsewhere. Governments and university management are unlikely to carry out the reforms required to transform Australian universities into good employers— quite the opposite. Transformational change in the higher education sector will require a majority of workers taking the kind of collective action capable of bringing a new kind of university into existence. 

4. A properly organised university workforce can provide tangible solidarity for the many other causes that we care about. We can carry out effective industrial action in solidarity with workers in other industries, and take  action in support of climate and racial justice. 


Discussion: What is Deep Organising? Hosted by CUPUW 

This Wednesday, November 11th at 5pm, CUPUW will be hosting the first of two planned discussions on how principles of deep organising can be applied to self-organising among casuals. This session will provide an overview of deep organising before zooming in on organic leader identification and the structured organising conversation.

Join via Zoom
Wednesday, 11 Nov 5 PM
Zoom link:

Facebook event here.

Image by Rosie Joy Barron 

Anti-Democratic Developments at Murdoch


The NTEU’s anti-democratic tendencies are once again on display with members of the Murdoch Branch Committee considering a motion that would bind delegates to a strict set of protocols aimed at stifling dissent. The motion (a copy of which can be found here) reiterates the NTEU’s commitment to a kind of top heavy pluralism by making it clear that opposition to decrees issued by the union’s decision-making bodies is an offense. If this motion is passed, delegates and branch committee members who run afoul of these new protocols can be removed from their positions.

NTEU Fightback have circulated an open letter urging Murdoch Branch Committee members and WA Division officials to reject the motion. Similarly, the University of Sydney Casuals Network issued a strong statement affirming the principles of union democracy and condemning the draconian move. CUPUW supports these efforts and urges NTEU members to sign the open letter. 

This Thursday: The Autonomous University

Some of our comrades at UNSW will host a forum this Thursday to facilitate public conversation around, in their words, "spreadsheets, disco, and collective struggle within and against the university".

From their event page:

This coming Thursday, we will be studying together; thinking and talking about the potential of the autonomous university, spreadsheets and strikes, disco and infernos, and student-teacher solidarities. This event will feature short talks from precarious university workers and students. We are responding to the crisis unfolding in our universities: neoliberal austerity measures, ongoing waves of forced redundancies and the increasing pressure on students and staff. We use Moten and Harney’s concept of ‘study’ as the basis for rethinking our relationship to the university. We are invested in imagining teaching and learning otherwise. Another mode of study is possible. This is a space for sharing experiences, ideas and strategies.

Pre-register for the discussion here.

And check out the facebook event for more information. 
CUPUW organises on stolen Indigenous lands across the continent. We acknowledge and pay our respects to Indigenous elders, past and present. We also acknowledge that these lands have always been places of learning, teaching and research. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.
Come to a meeting! Get in touch!


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Casualised, Unemployed, and Precarious University Workers · 120 Clarendon Street · South Melbourne, VIC 3205 · Australia

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