Liam corresponds

I’M PROUDLY A MEMBER of the NTEU, because on and off, I’m a casual academic, amongst other places, at the University of NSW. Generally they’re a pretty good union, but every now and then they drop some piece of communication to their members which sets me off. Boom! Papers go flying around my ‘office’, cups of tea get drunk, drafts get drafted. This morning the following made me breathe deeply and try to imagine calming blue surf while I was on my bus:

Dear members,
In recent years, management has imposed hefty parking fee increases on university staff that are, in essence, little more than a pay cut.
Below are the new parking rates for 2014, in comparison with the already high 2010 rates.
Reserve bay $3,000.00 per annum (2010 $850, an increase of 252.9%)
If you cannot afford this kind of money, you can buy a ‘hunting license’ that doesn’t guarantee you a space, just an opportunity to strike it lucky.
Staff paid over $35,000 = $1,000.00 per annum (2010 $425, an increase of 135.2%)
Staff paid under $35,000 = $500.00 per annum (2010 $320, an increase of 56.25%)
The NTEU has raised affordable and accessible parking as one of our enterprise bargaining claims. Please take a few minutes to fill out our anonymous survey and we will present your concerns to management.

So I sat down and wrote the following letter.

Dear President
I’m writing to you in regard to the most recent member email relating to parking fees. I’m glad that my union is engaging with its membership in relation to the enterprise bargaining round, and I happily filled out the survey you attached—though most likely in the opposite way it was intended. I’m also glad that the union is engaging with transport access, which in my view is a critical urban issue.
I strongly support the pricing of car parking space at UNSW.
At an inner-city campus which is well-served by frequent public transport it is appropriate that the cost of parking private vehicles should be high. While your email characterises increases in parking costs as a ‘pay cut’, this is only true where an assumption exists that staff cannot mode-shift to public transport, or other forms of transport. Indeed, the provision of free or low-cost private vehicle parking merely turns costs into externalities: we all pay for a car-dominated inner city, in the form of congestion. While NTEU members may not be able to afford thousands of dollars a year in parking fees; this should be seen as a desirable effect of pricing: neither can we afford to work at a university clogged by private vehicle use. Campus space occupied by parked private vehicles is space which is wasted for teaching and research.
The most recent UNSW Transport Survey demonstrated that it is not the case that staff are unwilling to shift transport modes. Car use between 2007 and 2012 declined, despite an increasing student population, and the use of public transport increased even more strongly.
I would like to think that it’s possible for my union to be supportive both of better pay, and a better working environment, for members.
In solidarity,


A few hours after I sent this I received a considered, nuanced and persuasive response from the NTEU branch President. Because I’m not yet quite at the Nancy level of correspondo-blogging I won’t post it, but it argued fairly strongly that private vehicles are still very important for workers with mobility impairments, small children, or who work irregular hours—and I’m forced to agree.

I’m glad the union has such committed officials to respond to such cranky emails as mine.



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Fyodor · 14 November 2013, 16:59 · #


Meanwhile, as you vanguardists of the down-trodden educat/ed/ing middle-class dither over parking fees, civilisation is crumbling around you.

Lookit and weep for thine fellow man:


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