2022 Edition Four

Page 22

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content warning: wage theft

“Egregious Bad Faith”: University Cuts PhD Casuals’ Pay by $10 Per Hour Written by Selina Zhang and Josh Davis

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has launched NTEU’s formal dispute letter. an industrial dispute against the University of Melbourne “Either the University deliberately misrepresented the intent overallegationsofwagetheft,afterthepayofPhD-qualiQed of its changes … at the time, in which case it engaged in casualstainsomefacultieswascutbyover$10perhour. egregious bad faith then, or it had no actual intention of Under the University’s enterprise agreement, it must pay changing the eect of the PhD rate, in which case it is any casual lecturer or tutor holding a “relevant doctoral engaging in egregious bad faith now.” qualiQcation( a higher hourly PhD rate(, in recognition of Why is this important for students? their expertise. Dr Knight believes the University’s underpayment of PhDIn 2021 however, the Faculties of Fine Arts and Music, qualiQed casual sta will have a negative impact on Veterinary and Agricultural Science, and Arts, among others, entire student experience. stopped paying this rate without notice. “I should be able to stand in a classroom and be a This decision hinged on the re-interpretation of a single representative to my students that what they’re doing here word in the enterprise agreement. According to the NTEU, is worthwhile doing. the word “requisite” refers to the requirement that the PhD be relevant to the subject being taught in order for the “If your business is to let people obtain a degree—if that’s product that you’re selling, and it’s supposed to be sta member to receive the PhD rate. A tutor withthe a PhD in Australian History, for example, would be paid the rate something valuable, it really needs to be valued,” she said. to teach any history or Australian Studies class, but not a A sta member who isn$t valued will Qnd it a lot harder t science class. go the extra mile - f you constantly have to Qght over pay The University disagrees, indicating in a statement to Farrago raises, about job security, that takes away from your time. It that the PhD rate is only applicable when performing duties aects my enthusiasm about wanting to prepare classes “requiring a PhD”; that is, only when the University believes the right way.” a PhD is “requisite” to perform the work. Who is responsible for this change? Dr Kerstin Knight, a casual tutor in the School of Historical Questions around who is accountable for these changes to and Philosophical Studies, disagrees. casual PhD rates have remained unanswered, despite the “My PhD is not like a tool that I sometimes use and dispute being formally raised in May 2021. sometimesdon$tuse-t$snotsomethingthat switcho, In fact, even basic knowledge of the policy change is use that knowledge all the time,” Knight said. inconsistent across levels of senior authority, with ViceThe NTEU maintains the removal of the PhD rate is “illegal, Chancellor Duncan Maskell and Provost Nicola Phillips and is a form of deliberate wage theft”. claiming ignorance of the non-payment when the dispute “At no time during bargaining did the University suggest it wasQrstraised. was proposing any change to this long-established rates regime,” wrote Branch President Annette Herrera in the


“On the one hand, the Provost and Vice-Chancellor make public statements about what they will do to end insecure

Illustrated by Meadow Nguyen

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