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VOLUME 3 Vol. 4 No. 2 No. 1

August 2010 March 2011

AN NTEU & CAPA PUBLICATION FOR CASUAL AND SESSIONAL STAFF

VOLUME 3 No. 2 August 2010

VOLUME 3 No. 2 August 2010

Researching Casual Academics Examining the causes and implications of the casualisation of academic employment

Precarious Employment

VOLUME 3 No. 2 August 2010

ACTU campaign focus on casual work

Telling testimony La Trobe sessionals’ improved conditions

Artful dodgers Underpayment in the UniSA School of Art

Why I’m a member Feiyi Zhang Show me the money Base Funding Review submissions due soon

Postgrads for hire Will work for soup Re-styled A new look for Connect and Unicasual

read online at www.unicasual.org.au ISSN 1836-8522 (Print)/ISSN 1836-8530 (Online)


-INSIDE1.

Base Funding Review

5.

Why I’m A Member: Feiyi Zhang

2.

A tutor walks into a classroom, and...

6.

A Casual Restyling

3.

La Trobe casuals winning better conditions

4.

Casuals underpaid at UniSA School of Art

7. Casual Academics Research Project 8.

The Rise of Precarious Employment in Australia

10. Postgrads for hire

Cover image by Andrew Li Connect is a publication of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). All Rights Reserved Š 2011. ISSN 1836-8522 (Print)/ISSN 1836-8530 (Online)

Editor: Jeannie Rea Production: Paul Clifton Original design: Andrew Li For more information on Connect and its content please contact the NTEU National Office: Post: Phone: Fax: Email: Web:

PO Box 1323, South Melbourne VIC 3205 (03) 9254 1910 (03) 9254 1915 national@nteu.org.au www.unicasual.org.au www.nteu.org.au www.capa.edu.au

The views expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors, and not necessarily the official views of NTEU or CAPA.

Connect // Volume 4, no. 1

Semester 1, 2011

In accordance with NTEU and CAPA policy to reduce our impact on the natural environment, this magazine is printed on 100% recycled paper: produced from 65% post-consumer waste and 35% pre-consumer waste.


Welcome to the first 2011 edition of Connect, the magazine for casual and sessional academic staff The recently announced Review of Higher Education Base Funding is long overdue. The Bradley Review of Higher Education recommended an immediate 10% increase in the funding per student in Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP), agreeing that universities were in dire straits following years of funding decline and neglect. Rather than making this first injection into base university funding and then looking at recommendations on the funding required to add further value, the then Minister for Education Julia Gillard announced that the Government would remove the caps on university places from 2012 and instigate an admirable social inclusion agenda. A little money came with restoring CPI adjustments, but in reality universities were left to plan for massive change without an increase in base funding. Universities are being instead positioned to compete for additional funding through mission based compacts. In our submission to the funding review, NTEU is arguing the 10% per student increase is critical, along with adjustment to the discipline or cluster funding model to account for the real costs of delivery of courses, rather than some flawed equation between costs and graduates’ potential salaries. As many casual academics know only too well, they have not had the opportunity to see the graduate salary they should expect with their qualifications. Indeed they are amongst the most unfairly paid considering their higher degree qualification levels. While universities do not have increased funding that recognises the real costs of teaching, universities will continue to claim that they cannot afford to employ academics in ongoing positions. NTEU is suspicious of this argument as there is too much evidence of universities preferring to have an exploited underclass of casual academics. The challenge for universities is to undertake long term academic staff planning which recognises the value of the contributions of casual academics and creates real jobs that enable them to embark upon an academic career. University students and staff deserve more than just-in-time labour strategies. With more base funding we will expect much more of our university managements. The third key message of the NTEU’s Base Funding Review submission calls on the Labor Government to keep their promise of maintaining the cap on HECS. Our students are already paying too much. Our government, corporate and community sectors expect much of our public universities, so should support decent funding levels.

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President

read online at www.unicasual.org.au

1


A tutor walks into a classroom, and... Welcome to the first co-badged issue of Connect, as the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and the NTEU begin new ways of working together on the issue of the casualisation of the workforce. CAPA has a long history of lobbying for the rights of casual academics, right back to the reason why postgraduates began the Association in 1979, and we’re still finding new ways to address the matter going into 2011.

What is CAPA? CAPA is a group of the postgraduate guilds, associations, and other representative bodies across Australia, representing the 300,000+ students to the Government and its departments, to universities, and to the media. Personally, I am a PhD student from the University of Sydney and casual tutor of five years in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies. Many of us within the organisation have had our experiences with casual work in tertiary education, including the very public resignation of a former CAPA President from the Council of the University of Melbourne over the treatment of casuals.

Why I joined My worst experience includes classes called ‘tutorials’ with up to 90 students in a room with no allocated preparation or marking time, and untrained tutors working as ‘aids’. When I complained to my supervising lecturer, I was told that nothing could be done because the cohort of 450 had been divided into six tutorial groups that way, as it had been for the past seven years. I was then offered a second untrained tutor to accompany the first. It was also noted no other tutor had complained, as though I should just accept that this is the situation. No person is there to work as a pack-horse, carrying ever increasing loads as the sector grows and working under stressful conditions. Each of us in CAPA is keen to see a change coming about within the sector, which is why we’re so excited about working with the NTEU. Part of this partnership is based on the fact that more and more work is being undertaken by postgraduate students in increasingly dire conditions: restrictions on what is paid for, increased staff/ student ratios, even renaming tutorials to workshops or demonstrations to avoid paying appropriate wages. Across Australia, students are on both sides of this crisis, and CAPA and the NTEU is here to keep the pressure on.

How can you help? Well, in the coming weeks, CAPA will be conducting a survey of working conditions for postgrads who are also casual academics (tutors, RAs, sessional lecturers, etc). You can also get in contact with CAPA via email on casuals@capa.edu.au, follow the discussion on twitter with #Casualcrisis, and help us get the message out. The more we know about what is going on, the more we can do to stop the exploitation of casuals in the sector. John Nowakowski is the President of CAPA and a PhD student at the University of Sydney. He can be followed on twitter @janek85, or via the CAPA President’s blog, http://capapre.wordpress.com.

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Telling testimony La Trobe sessionals winning improved conditions By Linda Gale NTEU Vic Division Industrial Officer

Feedback given by sessional staff at LaTrobe University has highlighted some deplorable working conditions, and has led to an impressive set of recommendations. The University must now implement those recommendations and provide improved working conditions for all sessional staff.

The La Trobe University Collective Agreement, finalised at the end of 2009, included some significant gains for sessional academic staff, such as separate payment for marking, increased pay for subject coordination, and opportunities for existing staff to apply for Early Career Development Fellowships. A number of other proposals for improving casual working conditions were referred by the Agreement to a joint Union management working party. The working party was three management nominees and three union nominees (one industrial officer and two rank and file sessional members). It held extensive consultations with the La Trobe University community, including a series of forums attended primarily by sessional staff. The experiences which staff related in those forums exposed the reality of sessional conditions and punctured the comfortable assumption of University management that everything was well in the world of sessional work. One academic at a regional campus had never been provided with any work station or access to university systems, so had her third year students’ major assignments stored on her own rickety old computer at home. Another had students in practicum after the end of her teaching contract, who rang her mobile whenever they struck a difficulty. It sometimes took half an hour to talk them through a solution, but the University provided no payment for the staff member’s time or phone bills. One academic worked across five subjects in two faculties. She had five separate contracts, five time sheets, each signed-off by different people, and only three of her contracts had been “activated” seven weeks into term, so she was yet to be paid at all for the remaining two. Her case was the most extreme, but late payments and multiple contracts were commonplace.

Staff told of student emails sent late at night, followed quickly by complaints if they had not been answered by the next morning. Some reported that they are barred from photocopier use in their departments, and have inadequate office and IT resources. Many do a substantial amount of work from home, and meet all expenses of maintaining computers, software and broadband access to do so. Although home office expenses are tax deductible, that doesn’t help if your income is below the tax threshold. A common concern was “being thrown in at the deep end” with superficial or no training in their teaching roles. More established sessionals were looking for opportunities to access conference or research funding, and in some disciplines raised the need to undertake professional development activities to maintain their professional registration. The NTEU nominees on the Working Party extend thanks to all the sessional staff who contributed to the consultative forums. Their testimony was critical to achieving strong recommendations which are targeted to the stated concerns and expectations of casual academics at La Trobe University. The Working Party has produced a detailed report, including 18 recommendations which the University management and the NTEU will now meet to implement. Recommendations include: • Production of a handbook for casuals. • Improved training for tutors, both before and during semester. • Streamlined pay and contract arrangements. • Improved induction for sessional staff. • Improved access to facilities and resources. • Ensuring marking is paid for fairly. The full report including all recommendations, is available online at www.nteu.org.au/library/view/id/1291

read online at www.unicasual.org.au

3


Artful dodgering UniSA underpaying casual staff in the School of Art By Annie Buchecker NTEU SA Division Industrial Officer

NTEU was in dispute with the University of South Australia (UniSA) for most of 2010 over underpayment of casual academic staff in the School of Art. Staff were asked to take a substantial reduction in pay to deliver 2010 courses that remained unchanged from 2009. NTEU alerted management to the fact that: • The changed contractual arrangement reduced the overall number of staff hours allocated to each course by 26 hours. • Course content and assessment had not been concomitantly reduced, and • 26 hours of work per course was therefore unallocated and casual staff could not be expected to do it on a voluntary basis. NTEU attempted to settle this through internal negotiation to no avail so the matter was referred to Fair Work Australia. Consequently, it was agreed that over twenty courses in the School of Art were improperly contracted and back payment was provided to all affected staff in accordance with the original NTEU claim. Casual staff are often reluctant to exercise industrial rights for fear of repercussion and it took some courage for staff in the School of Art to raise their concerns with NTEU. During the dispute settlement process, the Union consistently reminded management that it is unlawful to take adverse action against a staff member because that person has exercised a workplace right. This was raised during Fair Work Australia proceedings and the University provided a commitment that there would be no negative employment repercussions for staff involved in the dispute.

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Connect // Volume 4, no. 1

Semester 1, 2011

Unfortunately, School of Art casual academic employment practices for 2011 already look to be problematic. Management has advised that continuing staff will provide the lectures previously delivered by casual staff, that there will be no tutorials and that casual staff can only be contracted at the ‘other academic activity’ rate to provide guidance in studio sessions. All continuing staff in the School are fully utilised and cannot take on the additional load so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is little doubt, though, that casual staff will bear the brunt of student frustration when those students reach the studio sessions feeling underprepared and full of reasonable questions about value for money.


WHY I’M A MEMBER Feiyi Zhang University of Sydney

C

asual tutors face precarious employment conditions and minimal working rights despite tutors often having extensive education qualifications. The Union is a means by which we can get together and organise to fight for better pay and proper conditions. By more workers joining the NTEU we can build on union gains won in the past, as we are stronger together.

Feiyi Zhang is casual tutor in Political Economy at the University of Sydney, and an NTEU Member.

read online at www.unicasual.org.au

5


A CASUAL RESTYLING Design intern brings fresh approach to NTEU’s Casual communications

S

winburne graphic design graduate, Andrew Li, is the creative genius behind the new look for Connect magazine. Employed in NTEU’s National Office in Melbourne for two weeks in January 2011, he is the Union’s first ever graphic design intern. Andrew was given responsibility for overhauling all visual communication concerned with Casual members. This includes logos and designs for Connect, the website www.unicasual.org.au and a forthcoming range of posters and flyers. A field trip to RMIT University was arranged early in the fortnight to provide some background information for the project. Local Branch Organiser, Sam Maynard, showed Andrew around campus and discussed how the Union interacts with casual staff, how union membership benefits casuals and recent wins in bargaining. NTEU member and casual academic, Liam Ward, showed Andrew the typical working conditions of a casual academic, providing real on-the-ground insight into the issue. Back in the office, Andrew employed both modern and traditional graphic techniques to develop a suite of design ideas centred mainly around the concept of the machine cog. Simple, yet effective and requiring little explanation, the cogs will form the basis for a range of exciting new campaign design developments.

See more of Andrew’s work at www.andrewli.com.au

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Connect // Volume 4, no. 1

Semester 1, 2011


CASUAL ACADEMIC RESEARCH PROJECT By Robyn May

As part of an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant; Gender and Employment Equity: Strategies for advancement in Australian Universities, Robyn May is undertaking research for her PhD which will examine causes and implications of the casualisation of academic employment. The ARC project is located at Griffith University and the project leader is Professor Glenda Strachan. The NTEU, Unisuper and Universities Australia are all partners in the ARC project. As readers of Connect will know, casual/sessional employment in the university sector has expanded massively over the past two decades, and sessional staff these days are responsible for the majority of undergraduate teaching. There are a number of studies that have brought to our attention the serious problems associated with sessional employment and the incredible lengths sessional staff go to in order to provide quality teaching without the normal support structures such as basic office facilities, collegial interactions, professional development, let alone decent employment conditions. However university managements have largely chosen to deal with the risks associated with this mode of employment by offering limited induction programs, and developing monitoring regimes such as student evaluation. Hard won improvements in conditions, like separate payment for marking, often result in cuts to casual budgets, which in turn mean reductions in tutorial length, increased tutorial numbers, or changes in course design to reduce casual employment. This new research will use aggregated data from Unisuper to begin to quantify the real size of the casual teaching workforce. This data has never been used before for research purposes and represents the first opportunity to find out more about this important component of the university workforce. Early analysis of the Unisuper data has found that in June 2010 it was estimated that there were some 67,000 casual teaching staff employed across Australia’s universities, and this figure does not include those who deliver a once a semester lecture (as they would not earn enough to qualify for superannuation). The data shows us that casual teaching staff are much younger than ongoing academic staff, and 57% are women. Further research is planned, including a large employee survey and two case studies of different universities, in order to find out more about why universities are such high users of casual teaching staff, and what the real costs of this are for those casuals themselves, for other academic staff and for the university as a whole. At a time when student participation is set to expand to 40% of all 18-25-year-olds, and universities face the imminent retirement of large chunks of their academic workforce, how is workforce planning assisted by having such large numbers of frontline staff on insecure employment arrangements? For those casual staff aiming for an academic career, does casual teaching help or hinder in the search for a secure position? What of the traditional academic career path? These questions and more will be tackled as the research unfolds, stay tuned! To find out more about the research project contact Robyn May: Robyn.May@griffithuni.edu.au

read online at www.unicasual.org.au

7


THE RISE OF PRECARIOUS WORK IN THE AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE By Ged Kearney ACTU President

The use of casual and other types of non-standard or ‘precarious’ work is widespread in Australian workplaces. These types of work arrangements are now almost the norm, with only around 60 per cent of workers in Australia engaged in full or part-time ongoing waged employment. The other 40 per cent of workers are engaged in other types of paid work, including casual and fixed-term employment, independent contracting and labour hire work. Casual employment is the most common type of precarious work in Australia. Around 2.1 million workers (or a quarter of all Australian employees) are now employed on a casual basis. Women are over-represented, accounting for over half of all casual workers . While casual employment was originally intended to be used for short-term and irregular work, many casual workers are now employed on a long-term basis. According to ABS statistics, most casuals have been in their current job for more than a year. Over 15 per cent of casuals (equating to around 300,000) have been in their job for more than 5 years. Australian universities have a casualisation rate that is even higher than the Australian workforce average. There are more than 67,000 casual academic staff teaching at Australian universities. Sixty percent of the academic workforce is now casually employed and it is estimated that as much as 50 per cent of teaching conducted at Australian universities is performed by casual staff. Non-standard work arrangements suit some workers. But many others would prefer better quality, more secure jobs. Studies on the preferences of casual staff at universities has found that most would prefer ongoing employment and are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to gain secure work. ABS data also echoes this sentiment, suggesting that the majority of casuals in the Australian workforce would prefer more secure employment. Moreover, contrary to what some would have us think, there is no evidence

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Connect // Volume 4, no. 1

Semester 1, 2011


that casual or contracting work provides any benefits in terms of better work-life outcomes when compared to permanent workers.

are spent on services like health and education that were once funded by government.

The costs of precarious work for many workers are high. Casual workers generally have no entitlement to paid sick leave, annual leave or paid public holidays. Most have little or no job security, no matter how long they have worked for the same employer. While casual workers generally receive a loading, they have little or no control over their working hours.

While casualisation and contracting may mean lower administrative and labour costs for employers in the short-term, in the longer term it leads to lower productivity through reduced staff morale, higher employee turnover, lower occupational health and safety standards, and reduced training and skill development. In the higher education sector, high rates of casualisation threatens educational quality whilst making it increasingly difficult for universities to attract the younger academics necessary to address issues associated with an ageing workforce.

Many precarious workers – whether casual, contract, fixed term or labour hire workers - feel marginalised at work. They miss out on training and promotion opportunities and are often not included in workplace functions. They are less likely to have a voice in the workplace, in many ways, they are treated as second class workers. Casual work can also often mean lower pay. Casual workers are more likely to rely on the award safety net and earn, on average, lower rates of pay relative to permanent employees. Casual pay also has many other hazards – it can vary weekly, and change drastically over the course of the year. It is sometimes accompanied by long gaps, have unrealistic minimum call in times and remuneration can be whittled away by work-related expenses. Members who I’ve met in the higher education sector frequently speak of having to work more hours than they are actually paid for out of a sense of personal and professional obligation to students. Some are compelled to teach at several different institutions just to generate enough income. Unlike ongoing staff, casual academics are generally not paid to develop and maintain their knowledge and expertise. Many also face an enforced income break between November and March. The rise in precarious work has occurred at the same time as Australian households are being asked to absorb more and more financial, social and economic risks. There’s been a massive increase in financial risk among working families, with household debt levels above 150 per cent of annual income. Families are increasingly more financially vulnerable and sensitive to interest rate rises. In addition, a growing proportion of household budgets

Precarious work is backward trending and threatens the many working rights and conditions that we’ve fought hard to achieve. It is not isolated to any one industry or occupation but has been a prevalent problem within the field of academia. We don’t want the future for working Australians to follow that of the United States where it isn’t unusual for people to be working three or four jobs to be able to look after their families. In 2011 the Australian Council of Trade Unions will campaign strongly on this issue. While we acknowledge there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach we have identified a number of key responses to this problem. These include improving the wages and employment conditions for precarious workers and seeking to prevent the ongoing abuse of these types of work arrangements (e.g. the ‘permanent casual’). It will also be important to secure more opportunities for precarious workers to transition to secure employment. Another aspect of a comprehensive response will involve improving access to flexible work arrangements, as many workers are compelled to work as casuals or contractors because they cannot access ongoing employment sufficiently flexible for them to meet their caring responsibilities. These types of gains can be achieved through legislation, awards and through enterprise bargaining. Industry specific responses, such as increased public funding for the higher education sector, can also play a key role in reducing the incidence of precarious work.

read online at www.unicasual.org.au

9


If only the previous paragraph was actually parody.

POSTGRADS FOR HIRE Will work for soup

By Tammi Lomas CAPA Policy & Research Advisor

Show me a postgrad working as a casual who is 100% happy with the conditions and remuneration and I will buy you a bottle of wine. Oh, wait, many postgrads guest lecture happily for a bottle of wine, you say? Why of course they do, we all like free wine. But it wasn’t free, you say? Well of course it was, postgrads teach to gain experience and improve their future employability – they should be grateful for the opportunity.

In May 1979, the newly established Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) made its first submission to the Federal Government, a response to the Government’s intention to tax Commonwealth Awards. In the process of bringing together a number of existing campus-based postgraduate associations, CAPA’s founders discovered that as well as shared concerns about taxing a stipend already on the poverty line, there was widespread dissatisfaction with the remuneration and conditions for casual tutors.

Thirty years of lobbying In 1981, CAPA released its Submission to the Academic Salaries Tribunal on Part-Time Tutoring and Demonstrating Rates, commencing its now 30-year history of lobbying for improvements for casuals. Over those thirty years, CAPA worked closely with Australian Association of University Staff (AAUS), which became the Federated Australian University Staff Association (FAUSA). FAUSA later helped establish the NTEU. Virtually every CAPA submission made to government regarding research students over these many years has included recommendations to support casuals appropriately through fair pay for all work undertaken, and by providing suitable working conditions such as office space, library access and involvement in department collegial culture. As time has progressed and the proportion of academic work undertaken by casuals has dramatically increased, CAPA and the NTEU have both put more pressure on government and universities to contain casualisation and maintain opportunities for emerging academics.

Working for the future At the start of this year, CAPA moved into offices colocated with the NTEU, which offers both organisations great opportunities to work even more closely together to support those we represent. As the Government conducts its Base Funding Review and winds up the Research Workforce Strategy, we’ll be there to remind them of the commitments this government has continually made to education, and the essential part that postgraduates play in the system, both as students, and as teachers and researchers in their own right. Tammi Lomas can be followed on twitter at @tammois, or via www.tammijonas.com

OPPOSITE Tammi Jonas in 2008, as CAPA President, helping out at the Tutors’ Soup Kitchen.

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Connect // Volume 4, no. 1

Semester 1, 2011


read online at www.unicasual.org.au

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CASUAL VOICES We meet at the “pub for tutorial meetings about every 3 weeks and are ‘shouted’ a beer.

Always underpaid! I value feedback and give it but I hear often students only get ticks. Quality?

angry “as Iallamhellasabout this situation and can’t believe that these inequities are allowed to exist.

I am paid for a “ 13 week teaching semester only, including minimal preparation time. The salary does not cover a FRACTION of the work involved.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY..?

Let your voice be heard at www.unicasual.org.au With the start of a new year don’t forget to renew your NTEU membership for 2011 By renewing your membership: • You continue to support the work of the Union in creating a better tertiary education sector. • You will continue to receive our wide range of member-only benefits and services. • You will have access to high level industrial advice and assistance when you need it.

To renew, simply use the form in this magazine, contact your local Branch, or go online at www.nteu.org.au/join


Connect, March 2011