Life interrupted – 7

It’s not been a great week. Dominic Cummings was not sacked for breaking lockdown in the UK, another unarmed black man was killed in the US and lest you think Australia is so much better, Rio Tinto blew up 46000 years of history. And that’s just a few things, not counting the thousands of people who are still getting sick and dying from a deadly virus.

I am unequal to the task of commenting on world events other than to say my heartaches at the news. I also feel a bit disheartened because I was desperately hoping for something better, which seems a bit silly when it’s clearly more broken than ever.

In my city of Melbourne, restrictions have begun to ease. While this is great for businesses, it’ll make very little difference to me. I’m still working from home and remain circumspect about going out. People are doing their best, but boy have we already forgotten about our physical distancing practices.

Working from home remains hard – the flexibility is great but the mechanics of doing the work I do is better suited to an office. My team is working on a major project and I’m worried that we are going to miss something vital because of the difficulties working from home creates.

The sector I work in is in for a rough few years. The government actively cut us out of Jobkeeper, though there are some deep seated issues that even payments of this kind would not have addressed.

I have been attending a lot of union meetings lately, both official and not so much. The National Tertiary Education Union negotiated the National Jobs Protection Framework with Vice Chancellors and let’s just say it’s been an unmitigated disaster. Universities have refused to sign up and members of unions across the country have voted against the framework.

As a newish union member a lot of what happens at meetings goes right over my head. I have absolutely no idea what standing orders are and the first meeting I ever went to was just a lot of people (virtually) shouting at each other about conducting the meeting properly. I left early because it did not feel like it was my world.

I’ve persisted in going along because friends have been heavily involved in a grass roots campaign against the NJPF and I wanted to support them. While meetings have been fractious and I still mostly have no idea what’s going on, they have also been fascinating. From an objective standpoint watching the political machinations from both sides has been riveting.

At a meeting last week, a quorum of members overwhelmingly rejected the NJPF. Under union rules this should have been a binding decision. Despite this, the national executive is pressing ahead with another vote anyway, because you should totally keep asking the question if you don’t like the answer you got first time.

It’s quite alarming that they would take this path given their stated aims is to be a voice for members. Indeed it feels that they are just like all the other organisations that do whatever they want when it’s convenient to them, which is bitterly disappointing and not what I expected when I paid my (rather expensive) membership fees. For this reason, I am already considering resigning my membership.

I’ve been intending to write about libraries, but I find myself with almost nothing to say that has not already been said by others. Except that I have decided to not renew my membership to ALIA this year, for the exact same reasons I am reconsidering my union membership.

ALIA is a member based organisation that advocates and lobbies for libraries but not library workers, which seems a bit weird to me even though they are not a union. I have long been critical of them but it’s become even more apparent during the pandemic that they are an organisation that does not fit with what I want for my profession. 

Many libraries are reopening now and ALIA have put out a stack of guidelines about how to do this “safely”. Almost none of it mentions staff, outside considering shorter shifts and providing hand sanitiser.

This is simply not good enough.

Re-opening the library puts the emotional and physical health of library workers at risk, they essentially become frontline staff in a global pandemic. Under the circumstances, their safety and needs should be the first priority, not services or promoting the “library brand” – whatever the hell that is anyway.

I’m tired of the system winning and super rich people riding off into the sunset, while workers bear the costs. I don’t have the energy or will to continue support institutions that prop up the very broken status quo anymore and don’t stand up for their values.

I’m angry enough right now that I want to set the world on fire. And out of the ashes be part of making something new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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