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Who is The Fox?

Welcome to the seventh 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

This is the last issue of The Fox for 2020. Our regular release schedule will resume in January 2021. We’ll be checking the magazine’s Gmail account sporadically during December, so please don’t hesitate to submit articles and/or art during the break.


UniMelb Casuals Network Win

After relentless efforts, The University of Melbourne Casuals’ Network have won a significant victory with the Faculty of Arts agreeing to pay casual marking underpayment claims in full. Those who have submitted a claim will receive payment by 18 December 2020 and additional claims for marking underpayment, as well as lecture attendance non-payment, will be paid out by March 2021. We’re tremendously proud of our comrades and cautiously optimistic about the prospect of the University of Melbourne, as well as other universities, making further back payments for stolen wages.

Welcome as this news is, we ought not forget what it took for the University of Melbourne to do the right thing. Over two years, workers became increasingly dissatisfied with management’s slow response to underpayments issues. At one point, the Faculty tried to cut a deal whereby only 66 per cent of the bulk of back pay claims that have already been submitted would have been paid out. After the case against the Faculty received a hearing in the Fair Work Commission, the University resorted (unsuccessfully and embarrassingly) to legal intimidation of two casual activists. Confronting such hostility, the University of Melbourne Casuals Network organised and campaigned tirelessly. Well done comrades!

Read more about The University of Melbourne Casuals’ Network’s win here.
MelbUni casuals hammer in a 'for sale' sign at rally in front of the VC's publicly funded mansion. Photo by Max Dowell 

CUPUW on Touch One, Touch All, Or Else

Recently CUPUW member and La Trobe University Casuals Network convenor Anastasia Kanjere talked with Tilde Joy on Touch One, Touch All, Or Else on 3CR Community Radio about organising among precarious workers and the challenges that unionists face in universities. The excerpt below is perhaps most pertinent of many astute observations made by Anastasia as it elegantly articulates a CUPUW vision of unionism in higher education.

Listen to the full program here. Enjoy!

“The reason that CUPUW is needed is … Yeah, let me be blunt. 

The current model that the NTEU is using for organising the university sector is inadequate and will fail, and the only way that the sector can be saved, the only way that the relentless destruction of educational standards, of workplace standards, can be halted, if not reversed, is through a significant change in the structures and attitudes and organising of the union. 

So at CUPUW, we don’t only want to see casual workers represented in decision-making—although that is absolutely crucial, and it should be obvious to anyone who has looked at the university sector recently that it is absolutely crucial, that casual workers should be represented in decision-making and should not be relegated to a bargaining chip that can be traded away at the negotiations table for better conditions for fixed-term and ongoing staff. That should be fundamentally obvious. It isn’t to many, but it should be. 

But there’s more than that in what CUPUW is saying, which is to say that we need to see a deep form of connecting and organising workers that allows for huge participation compared to what we are currently seeing in the NTEU. Much higher density and much higher participation, and meaningful participation, by the workers, and yes, that is a radical rethinking of the way that our union currently functions, but there is absolutely no alternative from the CUPUW point of view. 

And the other thing that we would say is that this change that we are proposing is absolutely a positive and optimistic change that will bring good things for current fixed-term and ongoing staff. This is not, it’s not—we are frequently accused of [being] special interest groups, which is so maddeningly foolish. But this is a change that is needed for the benefit of all workers and for all people who ever plan to access tertiary education or hope that someone that they love or care about one day might, right? These are the stakes that we’re talking about. 

And we believe that a very profound reorientation should not be too much of a sacrifice to make in that context.”

VC Awakens

This story borrows liberally and unashamedly from two things: Howard Lovecraft’s The Outsider, originally published Weird Tales 1926, and the time that I saw UNSW’s VC, Ian Jacobs, on Zoom. Some of Lovecraft’s work is available online for free. When engaging with Lovecraft’s work it is important to bear in mind that he was a racist and arguably not a great writer—his highly imaginative and influential mythology notwithstanding.

Wretched is the one who can only look back on hours of ancient books and dust-coated silent machinery, the sole purpose of which is to calculate and discipline. Miserable is the one whose memories contain only a tormented journey towards abstracted organisational stability and none of the vitality of mortal life. And yet I am happy in my solitude, for my communion with the Great Other—a being of vast computational skills and financial resourcefulness—has been deep and long.

Encased in my chamber, I’ve barely moved in an age. And, though nearly impossibly static, I have learned a great deal. I imagine that I once had a teacher made of flesh, blood, and bone. But all the things that I can remember learning have been gleaned from the gridded formations of symbols displayed by my machines. The primary focus of my great interpretative work, the expanse of grids in my possession repays myopic attention for they contain glimpses of the Great Other’s pattern.

My chamber is lit by the machines’ unnatural light. The vaulted ceilings are cobwebbed, and the floor is seemingly carpeted with dead things. Someone must have cared for me once, but (if I noticed my servants at all) I have forgotten them. Through my chamber’s single window—a thin, rectangular slice in the dripping stone wall—I can see the luminous face of a gibbous moon. I am suddenly seized by the urge to see her light bathing the forest that surrounds my home. 

For the first time in many years, I rise from my mouldering throne and slowly cross the room—delicate little bones crunching underfoot—to stand before a large grey stone that serves as my chamber door. My disused muscles creak under the strain of attempting to roll the gargantuan stone. A sliver of a crack appears. Growling, I push harder to widen the crack—success! I slip through the gap into a dark hallway.

I don’t need light to see and I can make out the words ‘Vice Chancellor’ inscribed on my stone-door. These symbols tug a rotten rope in my ponderous, waking mind. Perhaps these symbols referred to me long ago. I flick away my curiosity: what I was isn’t important anymore. I climb a narrow, worn stone staircase that spirals up to the precipitous peak of my tower: its name I have not forgotten–the Library. 

Atop the Library I feel the loving moon above and all should be good, except my pleasure is corrupted by an abysmal shock. Instead of trees and fields, row upon row of demoniacal, rectangular buildings stretch out before me. Confused sorrow forces tears to my eyes and I weep. Despair soon gives way to growing familiarity, however, and my wretched performance ceases abruptly. I’m beginning to remember. The hideous city, unfurling purposelessly and painfully in all directions like a deranged phenotypic expression, is part of the Great Other’s pattern. A small part of the pattern, yes, but a part, nonetheless. More still, the dark city is my contribution to the Great Other’s work.

Fear wafts from the city’s floor. I stretch out my flexing senses to investigate and detect the presence of the unincorporated—those poor little things yet to be folded, reduced and absorbed by the pattern. Determined to make productive use of their agony (for their lives are agony and it is a sin against the Great Other to allow suffering to go unnoticed and unexploited), I descend. Climbing down the crumbling edifice is easy. My body’s almost fully awake. Strong and dexterous are my many limbs. Little screams. My mandibles quiver in excitement.

End of Year Message 


Well then, foxy friends, what a year. CUPUW was founded in the depths of 2020 hellfire and rose up to be there for us when our universities weren't. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your solidarity, for your staunchness, for standing up with us. Thank you for your brave hearts and generous minds. Thank you for your Thursday evenings when we swore the 3-hour meeting would end soon. Thank you for joining us in humour, in art, in resistance, in motions and letters and stories. 

We've learned so much this year. We've trained each other in deep organising (#McAlevey4lyf), swapped campaign skills and strategies, wrapped our heads around bargaining, national council motions, and the industrial relations landscape, and put huge efforts into trying to fix our union from the inside. We've had some big wins on wage theft and got some traction in the media. We've paid attention to what didn’t work. We’re getting better at all this.

We are, you are, part of a history of peoples forged, or perhaps more accurately renewed, in the face of adversity. If you have found yourself among hurt, rage-filled people this year, it is appropriate to recognise that that hurt and rage is the product of care and concern. Whether it is articulated or not, it proceeds from a belief that things can be better. Take care, take comfort, take stock. One thing leads to another.

Some holiday wishes for you: may your VCs <insert a funny terrible thing>, may your permie colleagues ask what they can do for you, may your union appreciate the strength in its own members. May you rest—like, really rest. Now’s a good time: have a nap. We’ll see you in early January. 

In solidarity and with warmth,

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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