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Vol. 9 No. 1 Mar 2016


The rising tide of insecure employment at Australian universities #IStandWithCasuals is encouraging your colleagues to treat you better Telling our stories at the Victorian Labour Hire & Insecure Work Inquiry Three successful Scholarly Teaching Fellows at UTS State of the Uni survey results Challenging the rise of academic precarious work in Canada German law a step forward on insecure research work On growing up and leaving home

read online at ISSN 1836-8522 (Print)/ISSN 1836-8530 (Online)


Casualisation on the increase in academia


Challenging the rise of academic precarious work


Workforce of the Future report: Uni management to intensify insecure work


The Rising Tide of insecure employment


State of the Uni survey: Life at the coal face

14 Growing up and leaving home


SuperCasuals in court

16 STFs: .Delivering academic job security

Postgrad membership


Vic Labour Hire & Insecure Work Inquiry: Telling our stories


NTEU seeking better award safety net

12 #IStandWithCasuals

18 Students are not customers 20 Precarious Work: Impacts & responses 22 German law a step forward on insecure research work

Connect is a publication of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). All Rights Reserved Š 2016. ISSN 1836-8522 (Print)/ISSN 1836-8530 (Online)

Editor: Jeannie Rea Production: Paul Clifton Cover image: rawpixel For information on Connect, please contact the NTEU National Office: Post: PO Box 1323, South Melbourne VIC 3205 Phone: 03 9254 1910 Fax: 03 9254 1915 Email: Web: The views expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors, and not necessarily the official views of NTEU or CAPA.

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.

Casualisation on the increase in academia The latest university employment statistics have confirmed that casualisation of university teaching continues to increase. More and more teaching is done by academics paid for a few hours a week during a semester, and more often than not doing further hours of unpaid work, to teach the increasing numbers of students enrolled in universities.

Networking, organising and winning

The future of the profession

Over the past decade, the NTEU has won improved wages and conditions for casuals through enterprise bargaining, and also through on campus organising. Often issues have come up locally, such as access to facilities and/or prompt payment and as this has been improved on one site, others take up the campaign. But good Enterprise Agreement clauses are not worth much if management – whether centrally or at the course level – are knowingly or in ignorance denying casuals their entitlements. NTEU local Branches can take up these issues with affected members. Turning the issue into a campaign focussed upon joining, organising and winning for the group is even better and more effective.

Over the past fifteen years precarious work has overwhelmed the university sector and now almost every second job is insecure. Recent analysis of the official data by the NTEU Research and Policy Unit found that, conservatively, of the 200,000 people employed at Australian universities in 2015, casuals make up 40 per cent. This means is that thousands of general and professional staff are employed casually and on short fixed term contracts, and many jobs have been outsourced. However, the greatest wake-up call is for academics. The future of the academic profession is dire. With four-outof-five teaching-only positions casualised and four out of five research-only positions fixed term contracts, by 2015 only one-in-six positions are ‘teaching and research’. Less than 1 per cent of all new positions created at an Australian university between 2005 and 2014 were tenured positions in teaching and research. This is very gloomy scenario for Connect readers, who overwhelmingly want to pursue an academic career. While the explosion in precarious work is usually attributed to increases in student numbers without commensurate government funding increases, as well as management siphoning funds away from teaching to pay for research (and follies), there is more to it than that. The sudden and substantive increase in insecure employment between 2005 and 2010 corresponds with the implementation of the Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRRs), which effectively allowed management to do whatever they liked. Clauses in Enterprise Agreements and the HECE award, which restricted casual and fixed term employment, were effectively stripped out. The HEWRRs were the Howard Coalition Government’s WorkChoices for higher education workers. Since that time, the NTEU has sought to restore and strengthen the security of employment clauses in Agreements. This has been reasonably successful, but remains under constant challenge. Conversion clauses are often hard to implement and so other strategies are also employed by the Union. Initiatives include, in the last bargaining round, the achievement of almost 1000 new initially teaching-focused positions across the country, which must be filled by people who have been working casually. While some of these positions have been advertised and filled, many universities have been very tardy. The attitude of university managements is very disappointing. Filling these positions is priority for NTEU in 2016, even as we prepare and begin the next bargaining round.

This is the ninth volume of Connect. The NTEU has been publishing this magazine for casual and sessional academic staff twice annually for the last eight years. Over this time, casual staff have organised on and across campuses on the ground and, in more recent times, harnessing social media as a major focus of communication and organising. Academic casuals have organised in and alongside the Union. The latest approach is that taken by the Victorian Division’s SuperCasuals (see p. 4).

Winning ‘payment for marking’ clauses in each Enterprise Agreement was a big breakthrough, but the unfair and outrageous application where casuals are expected to mark at rates faster that you can read have made a mockery of this entitlement. Students are understandably increasingly disillusioned as they discover how little time their tutors are paid to spend time marking their work. They also feel compromised as they know that their teachers often spend much more time and this is entirely voluntary labour. Ongoing academic staff do work long hours, have unrealistic workloads and expectations, and are also under pressure to get marking done too quickly, but ongoing staff are paid every fortnight and have leave entitlements, career development, access to promotion, superannuation, access to research funding and are part of the academic profession and community. The NTEU has produced a range of posters to remind academics in more secure jobs to stand with their casual colleagues (see #IStandWithCasuals, p. 12). We know that overwhelmingly casuals want better security of employment. They want to come out of the shadows, and they want to pursue an academic career. NTEU will never accept the normalisation of casualisation of academic work. We will not accept two tiers of academic workers, as is the case in North America. The Union will continue to fight for the best wages and conditions for casual academics we can get, and we will continue to work for the retention and creation of ongoing academic positions.

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President read online at


Workforce of the Future report

Uni management to intensify insecure work By Jen Tsen Kwok Policy & Research Officer

The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA), the industrial arm of Universities Australia, released the Australian Higher Education Workforce of the Future report in early February. The report seeks to 'explore and articulate the characteristics of the workforce of the future for Australian universities' and investigate what AHEIA has appointed as the most pressing workforce issue in higher education today, how to 'enable universities to compete in a globally competitive market'. The release of the report was accompanied by comments from Andrew Vann, AHEIA President and Vice-Chancellor of Charles Stuart University, who suggested the sector should ensure 'casual staff are not treated as a means to balance the budget but recognised as a core part of the academic community'. The report effectively represents a set of management perspectives about future changes to the Australian university workforce, and an opportunity to anticipate lines of argument in the next enterprise bargaining round. This is demonstrated in the methodology, with only 340 stakeholders ‘engaged’ (none of whom were staff beneath the level of Head of School, Dean or HR Director) and the fact that AHEIA commissioned Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) one of the world’s largest consultancy firms rather than any of Australia’s leading higher education academics. Their perspective effectively seeks to justify the intensification of workforce trends that deliver cost savings and industrial power to university management, while failing staff expectations and causing diminished productivity returns. The argument is that an array of ‘external factors’ have created greater instability for institutional decision-making (like erosion of public finances, global competition for students, and use of online education technologies), and this instability should be transmitted down through institutional structures and be effectively borne by staff. The report argues the ability to meet external demands requires


Connect // Volume 9, no. 1

Semester 1, 2016

a maximisation of management discretion, and a minimisation of industrial protections. The necessary workforce changes in the report are captured by the rather unintelligible goal of 'more professionalised, more specialised and increasingly flexible roles'. It depicts this change as ultimately led by an expanding part-time, less-research focused, quasi-academic workforce, which borrows staff from industry through short-term contracts. The dangerous subtext of the report for casual and sessional academics is that the report normalises casual employment through the coded language of ‘contract diversity’, a point made by others like Kate Bowles and Karina Luiza from CASA (actualcasuals. The report wilfully side steps a decade of discrete and recurrent academic research into university staffing attitudes, which has persistently highlighted insecurity of employment as the leading issue amongst university staff, and frustration at the paucity of university management as a close second. The problem for AHEIA is that the PwC report does not draw a connection from their assumptions to their workforce solutions. It does not explain how the array of intensifying external pressures can be adequately met by increasing flexibility of work hours for academic staff, nor the obliteration of the teaching-research nexus, nor the abandonment of academic tenure. For genuine engagement with the sector or the scholarly literature in Australia, what the report required was a robust exploration of existing and potential models for workforce planning, and how these would optimise capability and productivity amongst academic and general staff, while increasing the attractiveness of university employment. On this front, it is now clear that AHEIA has left the field. AHEIA report

State of the Uni survey

Life at the coal face By Michael Evans National Organiser

Five hundred respondents to the 2015 NTEU State of the Uni survey provided a stark snapshot of the modern day trials and tribulations of being a casual academic at an Australian university.

Fig. 1: Overall, how long have you worked in the university sector as a casual or sessional academic? 30


The responses generally reflect the ongoing struggles endured by most casual academic staff, and reinforce the need for NTEU to continue to focus on improving employment conditions and opportunities for this ever-growing group. The results show that despite the gains made by NTEU in the last two bargaining rounds (such as improvements in pay and the creation of more secure forms of employment through Early Career Development Fellowships and Scholarly Teaching Fellows) there is still a long way to go.


When asked what one thing they would change to improve Australia’s university sector, the vast majority of respondents focused on improving the quality of education for students through improved government funding. For further information about the 2015 State of the Uni survey, please contact Michael Evans


Not previously worked in sector






Fig. 2: How long have you worked in your current position? 34.3%



20 10 0













Fig. 3: In 2014, how many casual/sessional appointments did you have in total at all universities? 25 20







10 5 0











Fig. 4: If offered, what type of work would be your preference? Permanent full time

Casual academic staff are still being exploited when it comes to access to adequate resources and being properly included in the academic ‘life’ of their institution. While 83 per cent undertake student consultation outside of normal class contact, only 23 per cent were paid for doing this. Fifty-eight percent of respondents attended school or faculty meetings and graduation ceremonies, but only 19 per cent said they were paid for these activities (fig. 5). But despite all this, for a significant number of respondents the two most important aspects of their jobs that contribute to a sense of work satisfaction are 'Helping students develop' and 'An opportunity to participate in the education of young people'.




While casual academic staff’s main duties are lectures, tutorials and marking, many respondents listed duties such as 'Unit coordination', 'Course development', 'Creation of course materials' as the main reason for their casual contract. And as a further debunking of the myth that casual work is respondents’ preferred employment mode because of the added ‘flexibility’, when asked their preference for more secure work if possible, over 75 per cent of respondents would prefer a permanent full-time or part-time position (fig. 4). The most significant issue by far that might persuade them to change jobs is 'better job security'.

20 10

Almost 65 per cent of respondents have worked in the sector as a casual or sessional academic for more than three years, with over 16 per cent more than 10 years (fig. 1). Forty-eight percent said that they had worked in their current position for more than three years, including almost 9 per cent for more than a decade (fig. 2). In terms of making ends meet and earning a liveable income, 52 per cent of respondents had more than two casual appointments during 2014, with a startling 22 per cent having more than five separate contracts that year (fig. 3).


I’m happy with my


12.5% current arrangements 10% 38%


Fixed term contract, part time

Fixed term contract, full time

Permanent part time

Fig. 5: Do you participate in any of the following as part of your job? YES NO Are you paid to take part? YES NO 100 80

12% 40%







56% 36%


23% Student consultation outside of normal class

48% 68%


40 20



32% Staff development or training





45% 17%

Dept/ School/ Faculty meetings

15% 2% Graduation ceremonies

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2% Social events


SuperCasuals in court By Josh Cullinan Senior Industrial Officer

A critical component of the successful Victorian SuperCasuals campaigns has been the enforcement of member workplace rights in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and Federal Court. In less than twelve months, we have launched new disputes and litigation against numerous employers and already started getting wins on the board. Here are some of the actions currently underway.

We have also launched a ground breaking campaign for casual professional staff to apply for conversion after management admitted they had granted only six conversions in the past 8 years. This comes as NTEU gears up for a major Federal Court case against Monash for sacking a professional staff casual of four years regular service on unlawful grounds – including because she had a disability, made a bullying allegation, made a WorkCover claim and applied for conversion.

Victoria University

NTEU is in the midst of a major arbitration at La Trobe Melbourne arguing the job security provisions mean dozens of ongoing or fixed term positions must be created for casual staff. In mid 2015, NTEU secured ongoing positions for all our fixed term contract members and now we have focussed on securing the work of all casual staff. The case will be arbitrated in the FWC on 19 April 2016.

In 2015, over 50 members lodged claims for the time required to undertake induction work and follow up late contracts. Without resolution, NTEU approached the FWC to resolve our dispute. With the assistance of the FWC we have achieved a substantial outcome for members. For the first time, all sessional staff will be entitled to paid for induction sessions and VU will report to NTEU about how it measures against a new specific requirement to provide more than 80 per cent of sessional staff their employment contracts two weeks prior to work commencing.

Monash University Unfair marking payments are a major scourge in our sector. In 2015 we launched a campaign at Monash to enforce the requirement for guidelines about marking to be developed through consultation with sessional staff. NTEU is currently pressing that major dispute before the FWC arguing all sessional staff must be consulted about guidelines establishing fair marking rates – taking into account the complexity of the assessment and the experience level of the marker. Monash University has the most unfair arrangements for marking payments in Victoria, if not Australia.

Postgrad membership By Michael Evans National Organiser

Nearly 600 postgraduate students from around the country have so far signed up to NTEU’s new free postgraduate membership. Our postgrad membership is modelled on successful student subscription schemes developed by other unions, such as the Australian Education Union where it has proven to be an effective strategy for establishing the Union as important and relevant to future teachers before they enter the workforce. Of course, the situation is not analogous as only some postgrads will choose or will be able to gain a position in the sector. And, as we are well aware, those jobs are very likely to be in casualised academic teaching and/or fixed-term research positions.


Connect // Volume 9, no. 1

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Navitas – La Trobe Melbourne

Swinburne University NTEU has rolled out two major campaigns for job security at Swinburne. The first campaign sees 67 member applicants for more secure work in TAFE Teacher roles. NTEU has lodged the applications with management and is preparing to litigate our member rights in the FWC. The second campaign focuses on the rights of academic sessional members to apply for conversion under new sector leading arrangements. NTEU has uncovered the dastardly acts of senior management to sack or limit the work of long term sessional staff to stop them applying for conversion. NTEU is finalising its response which will be commensurate to the offence.

However, this highlights the importance for postgrads to understand the role of the Union in protecting existing employment rights and advocating and negotiating to improve job security.

Casual members are full members Full membership of NTEU is only available to those who have paid employment in the tertiary education sector. While those in casual or sessional employment pay significantly reduced fees, they are not lesser members in any way; they have full voting and representational rights and full access to all Union benefits.

What do postgrad members get? Postgrads will have access to online publications, be able to become actively involved in Union campaigns, and can access a limited number of discounts. However, they cannot be represented by the Union and do not have voting rights. Postgrad membership is free and enrolment is a seamless, online process. If you have contact in your work with postgraduate students, please let them know that we are now able to offer them a taste of Union benefits.

Vic Labour Hire & Insecure Work Inquiry

Telling our stories By Dustin Halse Campaigns Officer

Changes to the Australian economy have given rise to an explosion of insecure work over the past 30 years. Today, almost four million workers nationwide are locked in some form of casual, short term, sham contracting or labour hire employment. Nearly a quarter of all workers have no access to sick and paid leave, and are forced to work irregular and unsociable hours. Yet the rise of insecure work is not simply the result of some unforeseen shift in the nature of work in our ‘modern’ globalised economy. Conversely, it is the consequence of a targeted strategy utilised by corporations, businesses and their powerful lobby groups to deregulate the labour market. To be clear, insecure employment arrangements allow employers to wilfully discard their workforce obligations by shifting the risks associated with work to the employee. The Victorian Government Labour Hire and Insecure Work Inquiry is currently investigating these harsh realities and the manner in which employers are avoiding workplace laws and undermining minimum employment standards. The exploitation of insecure and labour hire workers is currently a hot political topic in the wake of two Four Corners exposés that uncovered the gross underpayment of farm workers and casually employed 7-Eleven attendants. NTEU took the opportunity to respond to the Inquiry via a detailed written submission that highlighted the extent of job insecurity at higher education institutions in Victoria. We demonstrated that between 50 and 60 per cent of all staff in the sector are now employed on a casual basis and that these workers are disproportionately younger and more likely to be women. We further noted that as many as half of all non-casual staff are on fixed term contracts. The written submission gave voice to dozens of higher education workers who have experienced first-hand the detrimental effects of insecure work. It is their personal stories that are most powerful. Many commented on the financial hardship and stress generated in being unemployed during teaching breaks. Women spoke of being unable to access maternity leave and the associated struggles of finding and affording child care. Others conveyed how the only way to pay for essential items and put food on the table is to max out credit cards. Tragically, these stories are not exceptional but rather represent the new norm as competitive higher education institutions engage in a race to the bottom in the casualisation and insecure work stakes.

is that the Victorian Government establish a Secure Work Ombudsman with the legislative prerogative to pursue actions which will reduce precarious work and increase secure work. Such an office should be empowered to investigate and prosecute employers exploiting precarious workers in Victoria. NTEU also recommends that a Secure Work Ombudsman assist precarious workers and their unions in obtaining more permanent work through securing and enforcing conversion provisions. In the coming months the Victorian Government Labour Hire and Insecure Work Inquiry will release its findings. NTEU hopes that they include strong recommendations in the vein of those we have presented in our submission. We hope that Premier Daniel Andrews considers for a moment the personal stories of our members trapped in insecure work. It is time that governments across the country take bold action to tackle the scourge of insecure work not only in the higher education sector but through all industries. If nothing is done more workers will be locked in casual, short term, sham contracting or labour hire employment. We will continue to fight. NTEU Submission to Inquiry (Dec 2015) Above: SuperCasuals Amelia Sully, Lachlan Clohesy, Laura Wagner, Colin Long (Vic Division Secretary) and Belinda Townsend. Photo: Dustin Halse

To arrest the acceleration of insecure work in our sector, the NTEU put a number of recommendations to the Inquiry during the February 2016 public hearing. The primary recommendation

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NTEU seeking better award safety net By Sarah Roberts National Industrial Coordinator

Over the last two years, NTEU has been developing proposals – and further refining and gathering witness evidence – for the Four-Year Review of Modern Awards currently being conducted by the Fair Work Commission.

perform. At the moment the award safety net allows the employer to never run a promotion round, meaning academics may stay at their existing academic level indefinitely, regardless of improvements in their work value.

Preventing uncompensated additional hours

In the Review, NTEU is seeking to adjust our underlying awards so that they provide a fair and effective safety net for tertiary education employees.

An employer obligation to take active steps to prevent the working of uncompensated additional hours by general/professional staff.

Enforceable limit on academic working hours Currently, our underlying award does not set out working hours for academic staff, or any provision for overtime. Traditionally, academic working hours have not been limited because such regulation was viewed as an unnecessary restriction on academic autonomy and did not reflect the nature of academic work as both vocation and occupation. However, the absence of any restriction on working hours has led to massive and burgeoning workload problems across the sector, as any academic will tell you.

This is an allowance to recognise time spent by casual academic employees on familiarising themselves with university policy, and maintaining currency in their academic area. The allowance is to compensate the many hours of unpaid work casual academics perform for their employer to simply remain abreast of their discipline and university policies and procedures.

Reclassification Access to reclassification for academic employees except where there is bona fide access to promotion based on academic merit. This claim would ensure academic staff are paid for the work they

vol. 56, no.

Published by NTEU

Since 1958, the Australian Universities’ Review has been encouraging debate and discussion about issues in higher education and its contribution to Australian public life.

1, 2014

ISSN 0818–8 068


Australia n Unive rsities’R eview

Unsurprisingly, at the same time the employers have made their own claims to 'update' the underlying award safety net, including: • Adding a new fixed term employment category for when a review of an area is occurring. • Removing industry-specific redundancy provisions for academic staff, and reducing the notice period. • Removing penalty rates and minimum payment for overtime for some staff. It is difficult to see how any of these employer claims contribute to the fairness and effectiveness of the award safety net. On the contrary if granted they would appear to make further holes in the net. Fair Work Commission hearings are set down for the Award Review through to November 2016, and a decision is expected shortly after. Stay tuned for more.

AUR is published twice a year by the NTEU. NTEU members are entitled to receive a free subscription on an opt-in basis . If you are an NTEU member and would like to receive AUR, please email

AUR is listed on the DEEWR register of refereed journals.

Connect // Volume 9, no. 1

Employers' claims

• Removing severance pay for fixed term employees.

Familiarisation allowance


Currently, employers effectively take advantage of the requirement that overtime for general staff be authorised, in accepting significant amounts of necessary and productive work which would qualify as overtime except that it has not been authorised. This uncompensated overtime worked by general staff constitutes a voluntary contribution to the tertiary sector in the order of $200 million per year.

Semester 1, 2016

Challenging the rise of academic precarious work By Graeme Stewart OCUFA Director of Communications

On 11 February 2016, professors and academic librarians in Ontario, Canada, held a Day of Action to confront the growing use of precarious labour in the province’s 20 universities. The event included the release of new polling data, a conference to explore the issue, and a series of online actions organised around the #precariousPSE hashtag. The day followed 18 months of organising around the precarious academic work issue by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). Just as in the USA, the UK and Australia, many talented teachers and researchers in Ontario are trapped in jobs with unfair pay, poor access to benefits, and virtually no employment security. The rise of these positions is the result of declining public funding for universities and the corresponding desire for greater workforce 'flexibility' on the part of administrators. While precise data on the number of precarious academics working in Ontario are difficult to find (universities have so far refused to make these numbers public), OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faculty has doubled over the past decade. Since early 2015, OCUFA has been running the We Teach Ontario campaign to highlight the challenges posed by precarious academic work. On the Day of Action in February, the campaign launched a new online pledge where students, faculty, and community members could show their support for contract faculty and join the call for better academic jobs. So far, hundreds of individuals have signed on. Using the #precariousPSE hashtag, faculty associations across Ontario came together online to show their support for their colleagues in precarious employment. Over the course of the Day of Action, hundreds of tweets came in from all corners of the province, each with the same message: every academic job should be a good job. The hashtag is still active today, serving as a rallying point for contract faculty and their supporters across Ontario and the rest of Canada.

Alongside the online activities, OCUFA also hosted the 'Challenging precarious academic work' conference in Toronto. The first session featured the release of new polling data on public perceptions of contract faculty, which were very encouraging. While many people do not realise that academic jobs are growing increasingly insecure, they are united in their belief that jobs within our universities should feature fair pay and meaningful security. Almost 95 per cent of Ontarians believe that universities should be model employers in their communities, while 85 per cent believe contract faculty should receive equal pay for equal work. The conference itself featured speakers from the Canada, UK, and the US. The NTEU’s own Robyn May made an excellent presentation on the situation in Australia, and on efforts to build solidarity among precarious academics as they fight for change (see report. p. 20). Overall, the conference was an opportunity to share experiences and develop common strategies for pushing back against the rise of precarious academic work. OCUFA’s work to improve the working conditions of precarious academics will continue over the coming months and years. We look forward to learning from and working with organisations like the NTEU as we pursue our common goal of making every academic job a good job. Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations We Teach Ontario campaign

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Rising Tide of insecure employment

By Paul Kniest National Policy & Research Coordinator


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Semester 1, 2016

An analysis of the latest higher education staffing statistics published by the Department of Education and Training (Selected Higher Education Statistics â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 2015 Staff data) as well reports published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) can only lead one to conclude that the rising tide of insecure employment in our universities has become a tidal wave. It has become so prominent in recent years that the traditional tenured teaching and research academic is becoming an endangered species. Number of employees The Department of Education and Training does not publish data on the total number of people working at our universities. However, this can be estimated by reference to WGEA returns. On a highly conservative basis, the NTEU estimates that there were at least 200,000 people employed at Australian universities in 2015. Of this number, casuals made up the single largest group accounting for at least 40 per cent of all employees, with ongoing permanent (tenurial) employees making up something like 35 per cent and people on limited term contracts about 25 per cent. That means only about one in three people (35 per cent) employed at our universities had ongoing permanent employment. The proportion of the number of university workers employed on insecure employment contracts (casuals or limited term contracts) since 2000 is shown in Figure 1. The rapidly rising tide of insecure employment between 2005 and 2010 corresponds to the period when the Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRRs) were in effect. The HEWRRs, as readers may recall, were a precursor of WorkChoices which imposed financial penalties on universities if their collective agreements didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t meet the ideologically-driven industrial relations agenda of the Howard Government. For example, they required universities to remove limits on the circumstances in which fixed-term employment could be used.

Share of Australian University Workforce with Insecure (Casual + Limited Term) Employment Number of Employees (2000 to 2015)

of intellectual inquiry, and undermine the traditions of collegiality.



When given the opportunity through changes to government legislation, as in the example of the HEWRRs, university managers seem more than prepared to exploit their workforce by using insecure forms of employment. If left to university managers the rising tide of insecure employment at our universities would quickly turn into a flood, regardless of the implications this would have on individual employees or the quality of teaching, research and community service.








2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

Staffing Resources (FTE Employment) and Nature of Work

In 2015 the Australian university workforce was made up of 123,414 full Figure 1: Share of Australian University Workforce with time equivalent (FTE) positions. This was Insecure (Casual + Limited Term) Employment. up from 82,301 FTE positions in 2000, an increase of 41,113 positions or almost 50 per cent. The data also shows that just The fact that almost two-thirds of university employees do not over half (65,523 or 53.1 per cent) of all FTE position were tenurial have ongoing (tenurial) positions has implications that shape the or permanent ongoing positions. Three-in-ten FTE positions everyday lives of university staff, including high levels of stress (37,276 or 30.2 per cent) where limited-term contracts and one-inand reduced productivity, as well constraining the opportunity of six FTE positions (20,421 or 16.5 per cent) were casual positions. staff to start families by limiting access to superannuation, parental Source:

leave and the ability to apply for home loans. However, the implications of insecure employment extend beyond the exploitation of individuals. They have fundamental structural and cultural impacts on the ability of our universities to sustain high-quality teaching and research. Increasing levels of job insecurity effectively tears down academic autonomy and freedom

This means that about half of all the work carried out at our universities is undertaken by people that do not have an ongoing connection to the university. This raises serious questions about the sustainability and the quality of education and research undertaken at our public universities. continued overpage...

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Composition of Australian University Workforce by Employment Contract and Type of Work (FTE 2014)

Types of Work and Contract of Employment


The NTEU has been provided with a more detailed breakdown of the university workforce by contract of employment (tenurial, limited term and casual) as well as the nature of work being undertaken: teaching-only, research-only and teaching and research in relation to academic work, as well other (or general and professional) work. However, the latest available data is for 2014. The data presented in Figure 2 shows that in 2014 over half (53 per cent) of all university staffing resources (FTE staff) were classified as general/ professional positions. Another 22 per cent of FTE positions were classified as ‘teaching and research’, 14 per cent as research-only and 11 per cent as teaching-only positions. An aspect of the data some readers might find surprising is that tenured ‘teaching and research’ academics only account for one-in-six (16.5 per cent) of all staffing resources. It is also interesting to note that specialist academics (teaching-only and research-only) together now make up a larger proportion (24.9 per cent) of the university staffing resources than ‘teaching and research’ academics (22.1 per cent).

% of total

53% Actual Casuals


Limited Term

40% 32.7% 30%

22% 20%




1.4% 1.1%



Teaching Only


6.5% General/ Professional

Teaching & Research

Source: Data supplied to NTEU by Department of Education and Training

Figure 2: Composition of Australian University Workforce by Employment Contract and Type of Work (FTE 2014) Composition of Australian University Workforce by Type of Work and Employment Contract 2014 (% Share of FTE 2014)


Research Only




General/ Professional


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Teaching & Research

This contrasts sharply with traditional ‘teaching and research’ and general and professional work where 72 per cent and 62 per cent respectively, is carried out by people with tenurial positions.

Connect // Volume 9, no. 1



Research Only

Teaching Only





Figure 3 shows the proportion of staffing resources being employed for different types of work under different employment contracts. Just over half (52 per cent) of all work was carried out by people with tenurial positions with 31 per cent undertaken on limited term contracts and 17 per cent on casual contracts. Figure 3 also starkly illustrates that the type of work someone is engaged to do is a critical determinant of nature of employment contract under which they are engaged. Only 12 per cent of the teaching-only work was carried out by people with tenurial positions, with 78 per cent and 10 per cent respectively undertaken by under casual and limited term contracts. Similarly only 12 per cent of research-only work was undertaken by people with secure positions, with 80 per cent and 8 per cent undertaken by people on limited-term and casual contracts respectively.





31% Actual Casuals

Limited Term


Source: Data supplied to NTEU by Department of Education and Training

Figure 3: Composition of Australian University Workforce by Type of Work and Employment Contract 2014 (% Share of FTE 2014)

Contributions to Growth of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) University Workforce (Persons 2005 to

Changes in Types of Work 2005–14 60%

In addition to looking at current composition of the university staffing resources, we also examined how they have changed over the last decade. Staffing resources grew by almost 29,000 FTE between 2005 and 2014. Figure 4 shows of those new positions, 55 per cent were classified as general and professional positions. Of these about one third (36 per cent) were tenurial positions, another 44 per cent limited term contracts and 10 per cent casual positions.

If you are female and employed to undertake academic work you are more likely to be employed in a specialist (teaching-only or research-only) role. This pattern of employment, as discussed above, means you have a higher chance on being employed as casual or on a limited term contract. A more detailed analysis of results in this article is available in the full briefing note:



However, perhaps the most troubling finding is that less than 1 per cent were tenured ‘teaching and research’ positions. Given that tenured teaching and research positions account for only one-in-six of all positions, we might conclude that tenured teaching and research staff are becoming an endangered species.

A further breakdown of data by the type of employment contract and type of work by gender reveals shown in Figure 5 that if you are a female you are more likely to be employed to do general/ professional work when compared to your male colleagues.

Limited Term


Not surprising of the new academic positions less than one-in-five (18 per cent) were tenurial given the obvious trend to use of specialised academic roles where casual and/or limited employment is prominent.

In 2014, female staff accounted for approximately 56 per cent of all university staffing resources (FTE). Work undertaken by women in insecure forms of employment accounted for 27 per cent of all FTE compared to 21 per cent for males. That is, there is a significantly higher proportion of university work undertaken by women with insecure employment when compared to men.

Actual Casuals


The remaining 45 per cent of new FTE positions were classified as academic but of which only 7 per cent were traditional ‘teaching and research positions’ while 18 per cent were research-only and 20 per cent teaching-only. That is, new specialist academic positions were created at a rate more than seven times that of traditional ‘teaching and research’ positions.

Gender Bias



20% 20%





3.6% 10%






5.4% 0.6%

Teaching Only

Research Only


General/ Professional

Teaching & Research

Source: Data supplied to NTEU by Department of Education and Training

Figure 4: Contributions to Growth of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) University Workforce (Persons 2005 to 2014)

Composition of Australian University Workforce by Employment Contract and Type of Work (Male and Female FTE 2014)


60% Actual Casuals

Limited Term



44% 37.1%





16% 11%


1.5% 1.0%




11% 11.0%

12.8% 6.9%

8.9% 0.9%

Teaching only



Research only


Teaching General/ & Research Professional


1.4% 1.2%



12% 12.4%


9.4% 4.3% 1.1%

Teaching only

Research only



Teaching General/ & Research Professional

Female Source: Data supplied to NTEU by Department of Education and Training

Figure 5: Composition of Australian University Workforce by Employment Contract and Type of Work (Male and Female FTE 2014)

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#IStandWithCasuals By Jeannie Rea National President

Besides the lack of ongoing work, only getting paid for a few hours of the work you actually do, worrying about paying the rent and keeping food on the table, delaying starting a family, and fretting about the students’ learning, casually employed academics have to deal with the constant nagging frustration of the lack of collegial support – or even acknowledgement. Unless they started their careers casually employed or are on fixed term contracts themselves, too many academic staff, even union members, do not consider casually employed academics as their colleagues, even when they work alongside or supervise them. Such attitudes go against both the tenets of both academic collegial practice and unionism. Consequently, the NTEU has produced a series of posters around the theme of standing with casual colleagues. Amongst unionists there is solidarity and understanding of our common cause of supporting job security for all. There is consensus that casualisation of university teaching is bad for the casually employed academics, for the quality of education and the student experience. What we have not focussed upon enough is the negative impact on academic disciplines and upon accredited courses leading to professional qualifications. There is an ongoing and

thankfully vigorous tussle with professional bodies as university managements try to cut back the length of courses, compulsory subjects, staff/student ratios, qualifications of lecturers, research profiles, and length and supervision of placements/professional practice. Some disciplines in some universities are so heavily casualised that many tasks of academics can no longer be done; from contributing to journals through peer reviewing and editing to sitting on advisory boards, organising conferences, promoting the discipline in the media and public discourse, or even reading a draft chapter of a colleague’s book or even their student’s thesis just to get some feedback. Casually employed academics get drawn in to doing many of these things without remuneration in the hope it positions them well if any jobs come up. They too are concerned with the health of their discipline or profession. Particularly as they gain experience, casually employed academics want to contribute to moderating, reviewing and developing new content and pedagogy in their subjects and courses, but are rarely offered a properly constructed and remunerated opportunity. Much more common are last minute calls to take over a course, rewrite the content and post it on the learning management system. Far too often digitally savvy casuals find themselves doing the online component (or whole subjects) including creating content, uploading, teaching, marking and transmitting results. Often this work is underpaid and almost always is unrecognised. These inequities and gross exploitation cannot be kept hidden as the dirty secret of the contemporary academia profession. So let’s provoke conversations and debate. The #IStandWithCasuals series identifies that casual staff give other academics the time and space to do research because often research funds are used to backfill teaching at casual replacement rates. #IStandWithCasuals calls for other academics to make sure marking rates are realistic; that casuals are invited (and paid) to come to meetings – and to not exploit their commitment by expecting free labour. It’s a start. Anyone can download these posters (see link below) or collect some from your local NTEU Branch office. Then stick them up wherever you like! Let us know what you think of these themes. If you have others, please share them with us. Download and print out your own posters


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I won’t pretend it was what I planned. It’s hard to ‘plan’ anything as a precariously-employed early career researcher, but I was looking for a position closer to home.


UP & leaving home

Like the university fifteen minutes from my house. Nor will I pretend it was easy. Moving across the world with a partner and toddler in tow to establish oneself in a new university, city, and country certainly has its challenges. But here I am in the UK on a two-year research fellowship. I will spend this time conducting an ambitious research project, chipping away at my ‘guilt’ folder of works-in-progress, and preparing to pursue my next, yet-to-be-imagined, academic adventure. Most days, when I enter my office, it is as though I haven’t travelled at all. The globalised nature of academia means that everything is pretty much the same. The same email program and library search engine. The same bibliographic and data analysis software. And the deeply familiar bureaucracy. Beyond this, however, something has changed: how I relate to colleagues, potential project partners, my work, and my academic identity.

By Dr Caitlin Nunn Durham University/Victoria University

It seems that moving somewhere new has helped facilitate my transition into a ‘grown-up’ academic. This shift in self-perception has led to the unsettling of some old habits of thought and practice of which I was barely aware. There are some reasons for this that aren’t about my physical relocation. I have received the approbation of being awarded a fellowship, and I am part of a supportive school and wider academic community that have welcomed me and my research. But there’s something else. I’ve been around my academic community in Melbourne for a long time. I began working as a research assistant on a large project a decade ago during my Honours year, and have continued


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my engagement as a PhD candidate, research officer, and teacher at multiple universities ever since.

here, I don’t experience it as a failure of understanding or effort, as I might in Melbourne. I am here to learn.

My networks are wide and deep, and I value them immensely.

At the same time, I have gained increasing confidence in the value of my own contribution, buoyed by the enthusiasm and interest with which these overtures have been met. I feel appreciated both for the knowledge and experience that I carry with me, and the questions and concerns that continue to drive me forward.

These networks are comprised of people who have known me for a long time – some from my academic infancy as an undergrad. They’ve supervised my Honours and PhD theses, published my early articles, and programmed and attended my first seminar and conference papers. Many others are fellow travellers on the ECR journey. They have all watched me ‘grow up’. As a community, they are uniformly generous in their support and encouragement. Indeed, I would not have obtained this fellowship without them. Yet the hierarchical relations from which many of these relationships emerge can be difficult to unsettle. Similarly, the feeling that others in the community will always have more experience, more expertise, is always there. It’s not that people necessarily make me feel that way. Many actively strive against it. But as I move through Melbourne institutions and networks, I carry with me that long history of (often awkward) growth and development. I see its traces and hear its echoes everywhere I go.

This openness and confidence has translated into my work, encouraging me to say ‘yes’ to opportunities to share previous research, tackle unfinished tasks with renewed commitment, and boldly pursue my new project. The great thing is that my Melbourne community is still with me – this is the transnational era, after all! They’re there in my email inbox, smiling at me from Skype, and liking my Facebook posts about new challenges and successes. Their support is invaluable. So, I guess the question is: Did I have to leave home in order to grow up? I’m not sure, but I’m glad I did. Can I bring this newly matured academic identity back to Melbourne with me? Well, I’m preparing to return home for fieldwork, so we’ll soon see...

This can be both constraining and comforting. Here in Durham, however, no one knows me. My history is self-narrated: in person, on my institutional webpage, and in introductory emails. With the exception of my fabulous academic mentor, no one here feels obliged to support me. I have to actively seek the intellectual and collegial engagement I need. I have had no choice but to be both brave and open. Since arriving here several months ago, I’ve lost count of the number of emails I have sent out introducing myself and my work, and the number of subsequent cups of tea and coffee I’ve shared with interesting people across North East England.

Dr Caitlin Nunn is a researcher in refugee studies. She is currently an International Junior Research Fellow in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University. Her fellowship project uses a participatory arts-based approach to explore experiences of local belonging among young forced migrants in North East England and Central Victoria, Australia. This article was originally published by the Research Whisperer. Republished here with permission.

I have engaged in this process with the openness of someone who is new to this place and context. When I don’t know something

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Scholarly Teaching Fellows

Delivering academic job security By Sarah Roberts National Industrial Coordinator

The last round of bargaining saw an NTEU claim designed to improve job security for long term casual teachers. The Union collectively won 882 new positions. Those who have successfully been appointed to Scholarly Teaching Fellow (STF) positions are now in a much better position. Connect spoke to three NTEU members who have recently been appointed to new STF roles at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) about their experiences and how being an STF compares with being a casual.

Dr Sarah Attfield What academic area are you in? Creative Writing, School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

How long have you worked in the higher education sector and where? I've worked at UTS as a casual academic since 2007. I also taught Open University Classes via Macquarie University for four years.

How did you hear about the STF opportunities at your institution? I was familiar with the potential of the new positions as I had been part of the NTEU enterprise bargaining campaign committee and was also involved in shaping the casual academic clauses in the log of claims at UTS. I knew that there would be STFs advertised at UTS in 2015 as they had been announced in a school meeting. And then I was alerted to the advertisement by a colleague.

What do you think of the STF positions? They are a great opportunity for casual academics to gain permanent positions. The teaching/research loading also allows STFs to pursue some research interests that are very difficult to pursue as a casual. As a casual academic I could have up to 24 hours of face-to-face teaching in a week. As a STF I have 14 hours face-to-face teaching which is a manageable amount.

What are your future career plans? To work towards promotion and further publications. To enjoy life as a non-precariously employed academic!


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Dr Ben Abraham What academic area are you in? I’m a scholar of digital and social media, focusing particularly on digital games. I finished my PhD in 2014 on non-human responsibility in networks – looking at things like our responses and options for situations where 'no one' is responsible, either through sheer technological complexity, or through responsibility being held by non-human objects.

How long have you worked in the higher education sector and where? I’ve been teaching in higher education for the past five-ish years, starting in 2010 at Macquarie University teaching undergrad game studies and digital media units. I’ve also guest lectured at both UNSW and Western Sydney University, done some marking for Sydney University, and examined honours theses from interstate.

How did you hear about the STF opportunities at your institution?

Entry level positions like this are as rare as hen’s teeth so whenever they come up people tend to share them around their networks for people who are still on the job market.

What do you think of the STF positions? It’s still a bit early to tell, but I feel extremely optimistic and positive about it, at least here at UTS. I’ve interviewed for teaching intensive (sometimes teaching only) positions before and I never felt like they were as good an opportunity, or nearly as well supported as they are here. I feel like a full member of faculty, and the transition from perpetual casual to full time valued member of staff almost gave me whiplash. It was like night and day.

What are your future career plans? I am still considering my long term plans and goals – ideally though I would like to achieve a bit more of an even split between teaching and research, maybe a couple of years down the track. I really do love doing both, but as we all know it is research that is currently most highly valued institutionally in terms of career development and increase of opportunity.

A friend of mine just got a job here in the same department and he heard about the opening and passed it along. I also heard about it from other friends and colleagues as well.

Elizabeth Humphrys What academic area are you in? I work in Social & Political Sciences in the School of Communication, in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

How long have you worked in the higher education sector and where? Over the last four years I worked at University of Sydney as a casual tutor, and at the University of Sydney and Macquarie University as a sessional course coordinator.

How did you hear about the STF opportunities at your institution? On the unijobs website.

What do you think of the STF positions? I was involved in the NTEU casuals campaign at the University of Sydney during the last round of bargaining. I feel fortunate to have been appointed to an ongoing role so soon after finishing my PhD. My appointment might not have happened without the STF positions to apply for. It is great the Union is fighting for ways to convert casual work into ongoing roles. It was a big decision for me to change careers and become an academic, and being stuck doing precarious and casual work for years was a real concern.

What are your future career plans? My school is looking to support the STF positions in a variety of ways, in relation to teaching and research. I’m looking forward to working closely with experienced colleagues in teaching innovation, and I’ve been allocated a research mentor. I’ll be working with my mentor as I move from being a HDR to an ECR. I’m working on my first book manuscript (based on my PhD on neoliberal economic reform in Australia) and I’ve started a new phase of research on the phenomenon of 'anti-politics’.

Despite the NTEU's achievement of 882 new Scholarly Teaching Fellow jobs for long-term casual academics in the last round of bargaining, only 301 have so far been appointed. Most jobs still remain to be filled, meaning NTEU Branches are now working hard to pressure universities to complete the job.

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Students are not customers By Andrew MacDonald Media & Communications Officer

In an article which appeared on the US website Slate last year, education columnist Rebecca Schuman rails against what she describes as the ‘idiotic political shorthand’ which increasingly casts college students as customers. While the author focuses specifically on the American context and examples of this consumerist approach to higher education, undoubtedly a similar mindset has been embraced by segments of the Australian sector, coinciding with increasing instances commercialisation in the local education ‘industry’. Schuman argues in her article that this view of students as customers, perpetuated by ‘innumerable higher-ed meddlers’ – particularly on the Republican side of politics – is comparable to using an anonymous online restaurant review, or real-life version of reality TV show Survivor, to determine the value and future employment prospects of academics. To illustrate her point, the author initially turns to Iowa Senator Mark Chelgren’s introduction last year of Senate File 64, 'an Act relating to the teaching effectiveness and employment of professors' at Iowa public institutions. The bill stipulated, that any professor who failed 'to attain a minimum threshold of performance' based solely on student evaluations would be automatically fired regardless of rank or tenure. 'Lest you think that firing professors based on a questionable assessment metric affords them too much dignity, rest assured there is more,' writes Schuman. 'Some beleaguered governing body would also publish the names of the five professors with the lowest acceptable evaluations, and the student body would then 'vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained'.' The article then quotes Chelgren in what Schuman describes as 'the most deadpan interview in the history of the Chronicle of Higher Education.' There doesn’t seem to be any qualification where the professor understands that when they leave at the end of the school year, they’re leaving with a couple hundred thousand dollars, but that the students they’re teaching are paying these huge amounts of money to be there… Do I think that students who…are spending thousands of dollars to get an education are qualified to make those decisions? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t a student be qualified to make those kinds of determinations? They’re the ones paying the money.


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First, the average salary of a tenured associate professor at the University of Iowa is not 'hundreds of thousands' of dollars, but hovers around $80,000,' writes Schuman in response to Chelgren’s quotes. 'Second, anyone who has ever heard the word 'adjunct' knows full well that many Iowan professors make far less than that. They don’t need a poor man’s Survivor to get booted because of their student evaluations, since that happens to adjuncts all the time. Schuman explains that although Chelgren’s bill appears likely to never be adopted, there was one ‘deadly serious aspect’ of both SF64, and ‘sister legislation’ in North Carolina which proposed requiring UNC professors to teach eight course per academic year to receive their full salary. 'And that is the adage, repeated by both Chelgren and North Carolina’s Tom McInnis – and, really, innumerable other higher-ed meddlers – that American universities need to be better at meeting the needs of their customers,' writes Schuman. 'But college students are not customers. That analogy needs to die. It needs to be drowned in the world’s largest bathtub. It needs a George RR Martin-esque bloodbath of a demise.' Schuman goes on to reference legitimate research which has determined student evaluations of professors are biased, meaning their 'customer ratings' aren’t fair. She adds that while legitimate research also indicates professorial popularity and effectiveness do overlap, one does not immediately signify or correlate with the other. 'Further, most students don’t actually view themselves as customers, because they know how education works and actually want to get one,' writes Schuman. 'But let’s ignore all this, and just reductio to some absurdum. If a university is a customer-service-oriented business – like, say, a restaurant – this means that the customer’s pleasurable experience (and thus continuing patronage) is the sole aim of the university. It does not matter, then, how much or how little the customer learns about a given area of study, because she is 'always right.' The author then uses the example of restaurant staff being terrified to offend a diner, lest they receive a bad Yelp review, regardless of how poorly that diner behaves, or how poor their food and wine pairing choices may be. 'Imagine how the Yelp template would work in college. Despite the 'sommelier' – in this case the professor – strongly recommending that the 'customer' purchase the Chem 101 textbook for Chem 101, the customer, being always right and in possession of the money, decides instead to purchase the textbook for Abnormal Psych 500

because it 'looks better',' writes Schuman. 'Then, when it’s time for midterms (our customer has not attended a single lecture – she’s paid her money, after all!), our customer notices that none of the exam questions match anything she’s read. Since she’s paid many thousands of dollars for this course, she is, as the customer, fully entitled to both an A and a full refund. And if her professor, TA, adviser, the registrar, and the provost don’t issue her a profuse apology, it’s zero stars. Fire everyone! 'Wait, what did you say? This scenario is absurd, you say? It is, and it has no bearing on reality—not even the most entitled student would act this way, and nobody would feel the need to kowtow to her if she did, precisely because students aren’t customers. 'If students are customers, then the university is a business. A business’s only goal is to succeed, as in make the largest profit possible, which it usually does by purveying the cheapest product it can at the highest price customers will pay. In this model, tuition should be as high as the school can get away with, and all courses should cater purely to the tastes of the lowest common denominator of the customer base. 'Education is neither analogous to customer service nor does it need an analogous paradigm at all. It is its very own paradigm, one that has been established since before Socrates patiently nudged Glaucon into the light. 'By the very nature of what they are signing up to do, college students are not always right, and since customers are always right … well, you know how a syllogism works. 'Thus the non-profit university should not be acting like a corporation. That even today’s public universities do act like corporations should be infuriating to state legislators. 'Instead, they are doubling down, using these blatant category errors as an excuse to run professors out on a rail, all in the name of 'customer service' to students who do not yet view themselves as customers. 'It’s not rhetoric to say that college students are not customers and that the university is not a business. This is not an angry proclamation. It is a statement of bland, indisputable truth.' Rebecca Schuman’s full article can be read at students_are_not_customers_a_political_shorthand_that_ needs_to_die.html

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Precarious work: impacts & responses

In February 2016, I braved the Canadian winter to accept an invitation to speak at the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Precarious Academic Work conference. OCUFA is a federation of 28 faculty associations based at various universities in the province of Ontario, mostly but not exclusively representing tenured academic staff. The Federation decided to focus its 2016 annual conference on the issue of insecure academic employment, based on a growing concern of the prominence of ‘part time faculty’ (academic teaching staff hired on a semester by semester basis in the same way as ‘sessional’ staff are employed in the Australian context). They rightly recognised that the issue of insecure and precarious academic work is one for all university staff, not just those employed in this manner. I was asked to present on my PhD research in two panel sessions, one which was focussed on the impact of precarious academic work on academic staff and on the university generally, and the second which looked at responses to precarity and how solidarity could be built, with reference to international experiences (the panel had presenters from the UK, US and me from Australia). The presentation in my first session, from colleagues at University of Toronto on their survey of ‘sessional faculty’ in Ontario universities, revealed much in common with the features of the casual academic workforce in Australia. The size and scale of this workforce in Canada is not well understood and there is no reliable data source.

By Robyn May University of Melbourne

The survey revealed a feminised, well educated workforce, the majority of who were focused on an academic career. Broadly those surveyed felt invisible, marginalised, lacking in support and whilst they loved their work they were concerned about the environment in which they worked. Many of those attending the conference were long term ‘part-time faculty’ and the ensuing discussion reiterated these themes and concerns. There was much interest in the session on building solidarity and looking to international experiences. Jonathan White from the University and College Union (UCU) in the UK described the strategies behind their campaign to fight precarious employment in UK higher education. Similar to Australia and Canada, the UK data is fragmented, but it estimated that there are at least 20,000 academics working on ‘zero hours’ contracts, a particularly harsh form of precarity. The recent large scale increases to university fees in the UK have sharpened debates about teaching quality and brought focus to university reputational issues, which the UCU acknowledged provided both challenges and opportunities for campaigning and building alliances. In that same session, Maria Maisto from New Faculty Majority in the US spoke about the innovative approaches taken to organising and campaigning in the very challenging US environment, and the need for moving beyond traditional structures of representation. For the Canadians, the notion of one union representing professional, academic and casual academic staff is a very strange one (just as the idea that when staff agree to be covered


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by a Collective Agreement they are all required by law to join the union or pay the equivalent fees to a charity!). In my presentation I framed the notion that a single union representing casual, fixed term and continuing academic staff is a necessary but not sufficient condition for enabling solidarity and improving conditions. However, it became clear in the presentations and discussions following that similar barriers to organising emerge despite the very different institutional contexts. Casuals are often reluctant or fearful of joining unions and becoming active, and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always see the union as capable of representing their particular interests. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to present and discuss my research at this conference and to contribute to OCUFAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s efforts to understand the challenges presented by a growing insecure academic workforce. A challenge that they identify is one facing all their members. There is much to be gained by sharing our experiences and ideas as the stories of insecurely employed academics resonate strongly despite our geographical differences. Robyn Mayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s PhD research investigated the casualisation of academic employment in Australian universities. It was part of a larger ARC linkage project based at the Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources at Griffith University, led by Professor Glenda Strachan. work-institutions/projects/workcareers-australian-universities More details about the OCUFA conference: confronting-precariousacademic-work/

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German law a step forward on insecure research work By Associate Professor Andrew Bonnell NTEU National Vice-President (Academic)

After several years of campaigning by the German union for education and science (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, GEW), the German Government has just passed a law that will improve the conditions governing contract employment in research. With most jobs in science and academia being fixed-term, often with contracts of less than a year, and surveys suggesting most German researchers were considering leaving the sector, the Government had to act or face a 'brain drain' of talented researchers abroad. Even the conservative Federal Education Minister had to acknowledge that university and research institute managements had been taking excessive advantage of the scope allowed by the previous legislation for fixed-term employment in research. The GEW had issued a manifesto calling on German governments to improve career paths in science and academia, the Templin Manifesto, back in 2010. It followed this up in 2013 with a call on the then new 'Great Coalition' Government (Christian Democrats and Social Democrats) to introduce the necessary legislation, and backed up these appeals with a range of campaign activities with the slogan 'Dream Job Science/Academia?' In January this year, a bill modifying the existing 2007 law on contract research employment passed the German upper house, after passing the lower house late in 2015. It should come into force this month. The main features of the reformed German law deserve attention in a wider international context, as the problem of the dependence on a research workforce on insecure short-term contracts has implications for Australia and elsewhere. Perhaps the most important element of the reform is that when a project relies on external, so-called 'soft' funding, the duration of researchers’ contracts has to correspond to the duration of the project. In Australia, it is common for researchers to be on rolling twelvemonth (or even six-month) contracts, even if a project runs for three years (and has funding for that period). That would no longer be possible in Germany.


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Fixed-term employment is, in general, only permissible in cases of third-party 'soft' funding or employment during a research higher degree. In the latter case, a contract has to be of adequate duration to allow for the completion of the qualification. However, the law fails to spell out a minimum duration (as called for by the GEW). Other significant features of the law include clarification that technical and administrative staff cannot be treated as research staff for purposes of fixed-term employment, opening up the prospect of more permanent employment for technical and admin staff in research institutes. The amended law on contract employment also improves access to parental leave for fixed-term researchers, with provision for the extension of contracts by two years to allow for parental leave and carers’ leave. The revised German law does not meet everyone’s expectations. The GEW notes that some formulations have been left vague and are less binding than they should be. This is partly an outcome of the lobbying by the German University Rectors’ Conference (equivalent to the vice-chancellors and 'Universities Australia'), which pushed for more weasel words and escape clauses in the legislation. The GEW also sought to tighten the restrictions on insecure teaching work (still permitted for 'special tasks'), and also advocated a tenure-track for postdoctoral researchers that is still missing from the legislation. A commentary in the highly regarded weekly newspaper Die Zeit by Tina Groll argued that the reform was too little – the real problem is that there are still too few professorships and tenured full-time jobs in German universities and research institutes. Groll is right, but the new law is still a useful step forward in mitigating some of the problems inherent in contract research work. In a world where there is increasingly a competitive labour market for talented researchers, other jurisdictions should be starting to pay attention to the improvements just achieved in a country that has long been a world leader in investing in research and education. Image: Humboldt University, Berlin. Source:



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Connect 09 01  

Vol. 9, no. 1. NTEU & CAPA magazine for casual and sessional academics in Australian universities.

Connect 09 01  

Vol. 9, no. 1. NTEU & CAPA magazine for casual and sessional academics in Australian universities.