Page 1

Vol. 9 No. 2 Aug 2016


Casualisation is undermining the academic profession A Fair Go for all staff: NTEU launches new campaign The real trickle down effect: Anxiety transmission in today's universities Hands up for secure work: Anatomy of a SuperCasuals campaign STF success at University of Sydney Bluestocking Casuals and the Feminist Agenda Use UniSA Freedom Fund to free Sessional Staff

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


Casualisation is undermining the academic profession


Update from new CAPA President


Why we got involved in the Hands Up for Secure Work Campaign


The real trickle down effect: Anxiety transmission in today's universities


Use UniSA Freedom Fund to free Sessional Staff

WA leads early bargaining

12 It's time for a Fair Go for precariously employed staff


SuperCasuals Updates

14 Bluestocking Casuals


Turnbull has no mandate for his higher education plans

16 STF success at Sydney


Anatomy of a SuperCasuals campaign: Hands Up for Secure Work

18 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander university staff: Danger in casual jobs 20 How to improve conditions for the academic precariat

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: Ion Chiosea 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 is undermining the academic profession Casually employed academic staff, in Australia and internationally, are increasingly organising on campus and utilising social media platforms to not just exchange experiences, but to advocate and agitate. The NTEU is proud to be part of this growing movement, and of our members taking on university managements, challenging breaches of the agreements and campaigning for improvements to conditions of work. In this issue of Connect you can read stories of these actions and campaigns and I urge you to join in where and how you can. There is nothing like getting to know and working with people who share your values and interests – and it is even better when you can make change happen. Collective action is the purpose of unions, and we have the added advantage of legally enforceable instruments – our collective agreements. Salaries and conditions of casual and contract staff are codified in Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs). The Western Australian universities are leading negotiating in a new round of bargaining and the NTEU’s priority is increasing job security for all. Hundreds of new teaching-focussed positions, called Scholarly Teaching Fellows (STFs), were won through bargaining last round, and previously the NTEU had obtained early career positions, conversion clauses and other initiatives. Success varies across universities, and a prime reason is the preparedness of the local NTEU members to mobilise. Getting good clauses in Agreements involves campaigning to back up our negotiators, but then we have to force university managements to act on their promises. Implementation of Agreements is a major issue and is only achieved, again, when vigorous advocacy by NTEU representatives to university management is backed by ongoing action on the ground. It is not up to those in precarious employment to carry these campaigns on their own. I was gladdened by the reaction to #IStandWithCasuals and the posters circulated earlier this year calling upon more securely employed staff to recognise and stand with their casually employed colleagues. We still have a long way to go to build real solidarity between university staff, recognising that precarious employment mitigates against developing strong and ongoing relationships. University managements now agree that casualising the academic profession is probably not good in the medium to long term, but continue to actively casualise jobs and rely upon the exploited labour of casuals to meet their budget targets. We have to highlight the damage that casualisation is causing at each university. NTEU has focussed upon the big picture of the magnitude and impacts of casualisation at national and institutional levels. What we need to do now is to unpack what it means at the disciplinary, course and professional levels.

The Department of Education and Training data measures the casual and fixed term contract employment by FTEs (full time equivalent) numbers, and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data does a head count. Together these show how reliant universities are on casual staff. The WGEA data tells us that there are extremes: from individuals teaching many more hours than full time staff but only paid for the teaching hours, to those being paid for just a few hours teaching a week during the teaching session and supplementing their income with other work. We must keep telling the stories of how this impacts upon the individuals, and also consider how much longer they/ you will bother trying to break into an academic career. We know most casual and contract academics want an academic career which means they want fair security of tenure so they can plan their lives. What is sometimes underestimated, often by more securely employed academics, is how much casuals care about their discipline and their course, and how much they worry about the student experience, the content and assessment, and whether the course does prepare students for a professional career. Often also underestimated by the more securely employed academic is the impact of casualisation on their discipline and the academic profession. What are the consequences of not filling or casualising an academic position? Are there enough people to supervise honours and HDR candidates? Are there enough people to not only teach, but coordinate the subjects? Are there people to participate in the discipline or professional association, sit on external advisory committees, on university committees, organise forums and conferences, make public interventions, advise students and colleagues, peer review or edit journals, undertake research and writing, evaluate and develop new subjects and courses, and stand up for the discipline during the next review and restructure? Have we reached a crisis point when having exhausted everybody that core professional academic duties are abandoned? The NTEU is interested in delving more deeply into what is happening within disciplines and courses. We are currently analysing new data on Australia-wide casual numbers which starts to reveal casualisation by fields of study. We need to get to a course and discipline level and investigate the impacts of the changes in the composition of the academic workforce. How have people who leave been replaced? Have new jobs been created and how secure are they? What does this mean for the ongoing viability of the discipline or course? If you are interested in this project do contact me via email.

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President

read online at


Update from new CAPA President Hi, I'm Jim, the 2016 National President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). After a busy first half of the year I’d like to use this opportunity in Connect to provide an update on CAPA’s recent election activities and our campaign plans for the remainder of the year.

Federal election For the 2016 federal election campaign, CAPA produced and distributed a policy scorecard for postgraduate students. The scorecard outlined our assessment of the major political parties’ positions on important postgraduate issues, including income support, proper funding of student organisations and other assistance for PhD students. We hope the scorecard was able to influence voters by showing the parties’ clear differences on higher education policy. Our scorecard reached over 26,000 voters through our online channels and many more via our affiliate organisations and individual sharers. While the federal election result wasn't what we had hoped for, the strong swing away from the LNP Government shows a clear public rejection of their policies, including the unfair higher education ‘reforms’. Australians strongly support an equitable higher education system and CAPA will continue to campaign and lobby to achieve this.

Valuing postgraduates As part of CAPA's 2016 campaign plans we are asking postgraduate students across the country to share with us their experiences of postgraduate student life. CAPA advocates for the welfare of students, and good political outcomes that will support postgraduate study. Unfortunately, we often hear about the struggles students face in completing their postgraduate degree – whether they are academic, personal, financial or otherwise. We are asking postgraduate students (both from research and coursework), former postgraduate students and casual academics to tell us their stories in order to raise awareness about postgraduate life and the real struggles students face. Our campaign 'What Have You Sacrificed?' will be launching soon, and we are looking for stories and spokespeople to support the campaign. Please email me if you are interested in being involved, or know someone who might be. Feel free to send this to others you have studied with, recent graduates from postgraduate degrees, and anyone you think would be interested in raising awareness. Our #valuepostgrads campaign will also be relaunched through our affiliates in the coming months, raising awareness of the important work undertaken by postgraduate students in our universities. A campaign around postgraduate mental health issues is being developed and will hopefully be launched before the end of the year. CAPA will also continue to promote the NTEU postgraduate membership option to our affiliates and their constituent students. Our partnership with the NTEU and its members is crucial to our own organisation's success and we are extremely grateful for the Union's strong support through resourcing and collaboration. As always, if you have any feedback for our organisation please contact me via email. Additionally you can visit our website or Facebook page to keep up to date with our campaigns. Jim Smith is the President of CAPA



Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

Jim Smith CAPA President

Use UniSA Freedom Fund to free Sessional Staff By Juliet Fuller Branch Organiser, UniSA

In the wake of the University of South Australia’s second giant online consultation forum, Unijam, UniSA Vice-Chancellor, David Lloyd, emailed staff to thank everyone for their contributions to and to flag the creation of a $2.6 million Unijam investment fund he calls the 'Freedom Fund'. From the fund, each UniSA school will have access to up to $100,000 to 'implement necessary innovations in support of improving local teaching, research or administration at school level'. NTEU also followed issues raised during Unijam and noted the high number of threads that referenced the disadvantage faced by staff and students due to cuts across the University to sessional staff budgets and conditions. UniSA NTEU Branch President David Corkindale wrote an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor in response, suggesting the money be used to appropriately fund sessional staff work. 'It is an excellent idea for Schools and Divisions to have access to extra funds in support of improving local teaching, research or administration at school level,' he wrote. 'Equal access to the best quality education for all UniSA students should be an objective that the University invests in and prioritises.' He further noted 'Two students studying the same course, but in different tutorials can have a highly varied experience when one student is taught by a continuing staff member with an office, job security and who is

WA leads early bargaining Round 7 bargaining kicked off early in WA with three of the State’s four public universities due to start at the end of March 2016 and fourth a few months later. All are now in active negotiations. We are hearing much from the employers in this round about how they are concerned about the low level of job security in the sector but to date their solutions do not seem to offer much, if anything, to casual staff. At one WA university, their suggestion for how to tackle the issue of job security (as if it was somehow not their choice to keep people in insecure work) is to free up regulation of everyone’s employment including removing key safeguards and rights in order to increase their margin which somehow 'would allow us to offer more secure work'. Forgive our scepticism on that! The choice of whether to offer decent conditions and secure employment is a choice made by the employers.

paid to be available five days a week, as opposed one who has a sessional employee who has had their contract reduced to limited face-to-face student contact hours and is only paid for direct preparation and marking time each week.' In a Unijam thread titled 'Consistent Inconsistency' a student lamented the difference between the always available staff member and the one who, when asked to be available outside of tutorial times, must reply 'I don’t get paid for that'. The letter called on the Vice-Chancellor to facilitate an audit in each school, in consultation with all teaching staff, to determine the teaching needs of each course and to cross reference those needs with the contracts of sessional staff to ensure that all learning requirements of the students are able to be met by those hired to teach in the courses. The letter further requests that the Freedom Fund money be used to increase the contracted hours of those staff where shortfalls are identified through the audit. While David Lloyd has responded that he wants Schools to determine the use of the money themselves, he has also indicated that he has forwarded the letter to all Heads of School for their consideration. The NTEU has asked all continuing staff to stand with casuals and to advocate locally, through School Boards and other forums, for this sensible and appropriate use of these funds which claim to be designated to support local teaching, research and administration.

For the NTEU the issue of job security is front and centre with a suite of key claims being tabled. Of particular significance for casuals is the claim for conversion to on-going status for long term casuals who have had regular employment. The Union also recognises that one of the significant disadvantages suffered by those in casual employment, and those who are also in other forms of insecure work such as rolling short term contracts, is the substantially lower retirement income they accrue. To rectify this we have claimed for the current employer superannuation contribution of 17 per cent that applies to all ongoing staff and those on longer fixed term appointment to also be paid to casual and sessional staff. To encourage the employers to do the right thing by the significantly large proportion of their staff whose work and income is insecure, we have proposed that the increase be phased in across a four year period with the aim that all university staff will be receiving 17 per cent employer contribution by 2020. For developments in bargaining follow the WA Division Facebook page: Or watch our dedicated bargaining page:

read online at


SuperCasuals Updates By Dustin Halse Recruitment & Campaign Organiser, Victorian Division

The Victorian Division SuperCasuals campaign team has been busy of late. Campaign activity has commenced at a range of Victorian universities and members of the Victorian Casuals Council (VCC) have organised an inaugural SuperCasuals Bluestocking Week event. Here are some of the actions currently underway.

Bluestocking Week #MakethePledge Swinburne University is the only Victorian university that guarantees paid leave for casual staff experiencing domestic or family violence. Research shows paid leave makes a big difference to those trapped in domestic violence situations. Victorian Casuals Council (VCC) members Amelia Sully, Eleanor Kennedy, Jo Taylor and Dr Bel Townsend, in collaboration with NTEU National President Jeannie Rea, have written to Victorian vice-chancellors asking them to #MakethePledge to extend domestic and family violence leave to all staff. On Thursday 18 August, NTEU will be announcing who has taken the pledge and who needs some encouragement. We invite you to get involved in this celebration of pledges and help us deliver domestic and family violence leave to all casuals in the sector. To find out more email Jo Taylor

Deakin SuperCasuals kicking off Deakin casuals have agitated for a SuperCasuals campaign to commence on site for some time. Heeding the call, local activist and VCC member, Dr Bel Townsend, together with the SuperCasuals campaign team, recently designed and sent an action survey to thousands of Deakin casuals.

Hands Up for Secure Work at University of Melbourne Job security is an enormous issue at the University of Melbourne (UoM) with the largest cohort of workers being employed on a casual basis. NTEU has responded by launching a ‘Hands Up for Secure Work’ campaign to securitise the work of eligible casual and fixed-term staff. Eligible professional staff casuals have strong rights to apply for conversion to ongoing work and casual academic staff have the capacity to agitate for the creation of teaching specialist (periodic) positions in their faculty. To date more than 150 UoM staff have joined the campaign and put in an application to be converted to secure work. For those interested participating in the campaign get in touch with local Organiser Chloe Gaul, and read the full story on page 6 of this issue of Connect.

Victorian Casuals Activist Day On Thursday 2 June, the Victorian Division held its inaugural Victorian Casuals Activist Day. Nearly 50 NTEU members came along to discuss and explore how SuperCasual activists can collectively win better working conditions. Presentations from local activists involved in current and previous SuperCasuals actions described the methodology of a successful campaign. The emphasis of the day was rested upon highlighting the strength and agency of casuals to lead the change towards secure work. Casual members, delegates and activists interested in joining a campaign or participating in campaign training, please contact Dustin Halse

Nearly 400 responses were received in the space of a week and a list of prominent issues have come to the fore. Mass meetings across three Deakin campuses attended by nearly 100 casuals have been run and local campaign teams are being formed. In the coming weeks look out for further information regarding Deakin SuperCasuals events. If you are a Deakin University casuals and want to join the local campaign team shoot us an email at, we need your help!


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

Below: Deakin SuperCasuals campaign meeting.

Higher Education and 2016 Federal Election

Turnbull has no mandate for his higher education plans By Paul Kniest Policy & Research Coordinator

One of the very important reasons the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s higher education legislation was defeated twice in the Senate in the last Parliament was because many of the Senators did not believe the Government had a political mandate for its radical plans. In the lead up to 2013 federal election, Tony Abbott committed to a policy of ‘masterly inactivity’ when it came to higher education policy and an emphatic promise that there would be 'no cuts to health, education, the ABC or SBS'. It is little wonder that several senators, including Jacquie Lambie, insisted that the Government take its policies to an election before they would even consider supporting them. The electoral toxicity of the Government’s proposals forced it into a political retreat on higher education policy. Rather than taking its failed policies to election in order to secure a political mandate, the Government instead announced, as part of the 2016 Budget, that it was abandoning its plans for full fee deregulation and was committed to undertaking further consultation in relation to other aspects of its higher education agenda. To expedite this consultation the Government released a discussion paper, Driving Innovation, Fairness and Excellence in Higher Education. However, far from facilitating a genuine re-examination of the Government’s higher education policies, the discussion paper did nothing more than reboot a conversation about the Government’s failed policy agenda. While the discussion paper contemplates tinkering around with details of specific programs, the objectives of the Government’s policy remained fundamentally unchanged, and included:

While the Government might want to claim that it now has a political mandate for its broad policy framework, it does not. Indeed with a margin of one seat, they will have trouble claiming a mandate on anything. In recent years the NTEU has worked closely with the ALP, the Greens and a number of cross bench Senators, some of whom, including Nick Xenophon and Jacquie Lambie, have been re-elected to the new Parliament. As NTEU endorsed Defenders of Higher Education these newly (re)elected Parliamentarians have agreed to support policies that would stop the introduction of $100,000 degrees, improve the level of public investment in higher education and preserve the reputation of Australia’s higher education sector through rigorous regulation and public accountability measures. Unfortunately, this leaves Australian higher education and research policy in somewhat of a limbo. It seems that much of the Union’s resources will continue to be dedicated to advocating against the Coalition’s unprincipled, unfair and unsustainable agenda rather than pursuing a positive agenda. The agenda NTEU will continue to advocate would make our universities more accountable by ensuring every student enrolled is given a genuine opportunity to successfully complete their studies. To receive funding, universities should have to demonstrate they are able to attract and retain appropriately qualified staff through secure employment. Defenders of Higher Education:

• Cutting public investment in higher education by $2.5 billion over the next four years. • Making all students pay more for their degrees, and in the case of flagship degrees much, much more. • Introducing a fully contestable market model into higher education by allowing private for-profit providers to offer Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs).

read online at


Anatomy of a SuperCasuals campaign

HANDS UP for secure work

By Dustin Halse Recruitment & Campaign Organiser, Victorian Division

Casualisation in the higher education sector shows no signs of abating, a harsh reality not lost on the readers of Connect. How then can casual employees and the Union combat the scourge of insecure work? One response is evident in the ‘Hands Up for Secure Work’ campaign launched recently at the University of Melbourne (UoM). The campaign was led by UoM NTEU activists and organising staff.

Background Australian universities are sites of endemic job insecurity and gross worker exploitation. The latest statistics indicate that casuals account for a staggering 40 per cent of all university employees – the largest cohort of workers in the sector. Eighty per cent of all jobs created from 2004 to 2014 were either casual or fixed term. Women are also far more likely to be employed casually than their male counterparts. UoM has thousands of casual staff on the books, and casuals now undertake the majority of the teaching duties. Almost 60 per cent of casual employees are women and a large proportion have been trapped in precarious work for years or even decades. Last year dozens of UoM casuals exposed the grim corollaries of casual employment via the NTEU’s submission to the Victorian Labour Hire and Insecure Work Inquiry. The personal stories they submitted were harrowing – the recurring themes being severe financial and psychological consequences.

Aim The UoM Union Collective Agreement contains specific job security rights for casuals. Eligible casuals have rights to apply for conversion to secure work, and UoM senior management can only refuse conversion applications on limited grounds.


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

However, good Agreement clauses are of little value unless they are enforced. The aim of the Hands Up for Secure Work campaign was to see eligible casual NTEU members (and fixed term members) converted to ongoing work. Permanent work not only provides job security but also 17 per cent superannuation and a host of leave conditions.

Strategy Universities frequently skirt responsibilities housed within Collective Agreements. Few eligible casuals at UoM have been made aware that they are entitled to apply for conversion to ongoing work. The Hands Up for Secure Work campaign identifies and then invites eligible employees to join a collective conversion campaign. NTEU will collectively lodge the applications of members once a critical mass has been reached. The central feature of this campaign is to expand the power and agency of insecure workers through collective action.

Execution To begin with, a small Hands Up for Secure Work organising team was formed. It was then important to identify potential campaign participants through a digital mapping exercise. Mass email and phone lists of casual staff were quickly compiled. These lists were used to invite staff to free lunch meetings at every major UoM campus in April and May 2016. In addition, UoM activists traversed faculty corridors to have one to one conversations with staff and to disseminate hardcopy meeting invites and campaign materials.

Activists and organising staff held coffee stalls and morning teas, knocked on doors, coordinated drinks events, trained fellow campaign delegates and conducted phone banks to encourage staff to join the campaign. Campaign actions will be continue to be held throughout August and beyond to support the lodgment of conversion applications.

Where to from here? The Hands Up for Secure Work Campaign is the largest conversion action the NTEU has ever launched. To date more than 155 casual and fixed-term staff have joined the collective application. Nearly 100 new members have joined the NTEU as a result of this action. At the end of August the NTEU will finalise and lodge the conversion applications of participants. Of course the campaign will not conclude until an outcome satisfactory to NTEU members has been reached – in this situation that means the creation of jobs members can count on, secure jobs! For those interested in learning more about the Hands Up for Secure Work campaign contact Dustin Halse or Chloe Gaul Check out SEE OVERPAGE FOR STORIES FROM CASUAL MEMBERS ON WHY THEY GOT INVOLVED WITH THE HANDS UP FOR SECURE WORK CAMPAIGN

At the open meetings the campaign structure was discussed and the relevant conversion rights outlined. Casuals joined the campaign at these meetings and many volunteered to become key delegates in their work areas. In the ensuing two months a range of activities saw the campaign go from strength to strength.

read online at


Why we got involved in the Hands Up for Secure Work Campaign Daniel Nicholson Like many staff at the University of Melbourne, I am employed on a precarious contract. Workers in insecure employment – be they casual or fixed term staff – have inferior industrial rights comparable to those in secure work. Many insecure University of Melbourne staff struggle to make ends meet and plan for their futures. That’s why I got involved as a volunteer in the Hands Up for Secure Work Campaign. With other union members, I have been having conversations with colleagues, putting up posters and encouraging people to sign up to the campaign. We have already signed up over 150 people and that number will continue to grow. Together, we are going building power for workers in precarious circumstances and making a tangible difference.

Amelia Sully I am a member of the Victorian Casuals Council and soon-to-be member of the University of Melbourne Branch Committee. I came on board this campaign in May and have been distributing information to staff about their rights at work and talking with them about their experiences of insecure work. Participating in this campaign transformed my perception of my employment relationship with universities. Some of my experiences in insecure work in the sector had felt humiliating. I didn’t feel as if I had the right or the agency to claim the working life I wanted. Through meeting other union members on this campaign I realised that what I had perceived as an unequal power relationship between university employers and employees could be different. Insecure academic work in our sector is gendered, and as a young woman and feminist I feel exhilarated to participate in this campaign.

Eleanor Kennedy As a casual employee of the University I got involved in the 'Hands Up for Secure Work' campaign after talking with another female casual employee. Trading stories I realised that the raw deal I was getting was not unique. The conversation also highlighted that casualisation is a distinctly gendered issue – women are more likely to be put on insecure contracts, and to suffer the ramifications of no leave and diminished superannuation. I got involved in the campaign as a concerned colleague, but I continue to work on the campaign as a concerned alumnus of the University of Melbourne. The University’s current business model is too reliant on casual employment and this is detrimental to employees who labour under the stress of insecure work, but it also sees the University fail to provide a world-class product and puts its reputation, and capacity to serve students and the community at risk. The campaign is about building the University as a best practice employer, as it should be. We are going to be having conversations all across campus in the coming weeks, so say hello, get involved and help stop insecure work.


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

The real trickle down effect Anxiety transmission in today's universities By Cathy Rytmeister Macquarie University

& Agnes Bosanquet Macquarie University

Imagine a campus cafÊ at any Australian university in Week 2 of a new semester. As you line up for your caffeine hit, you overhear sessional and fixed term academics in conversation. Are they talking about their excitement at engaging with students this semester? Their anticipation of the satisfaction that teaching brings? Their enthusiasm for their research and the opportunities they’re being offered to advance their academic careers? continued overpage...

read online at


The real trickle down effect: Anxiety transmission in today's universities continued... All this might be true, but what you hear is: I’m so flat out coordinating three courses – teaching, admin, marking, online stuff... I really don’t even have time to have this coffee… I’m struggling too, I’ve got to finish the PhD if I’m going to have a shot at a job next year. But I need the teaching for money to live on. I’m still on probation so I have to do research in my own time. I can’t afford to go back to casual work. Everyone in my department’s the same – overworked and miserable. We’re so vulnerable as casuals, so much of the work is unpaid but you can’t make a fuss – they’ll just say they don’t need you anymore. I’m just sick with anxiety over the uncertainty of it all. I never know how many hours I’ll get before the semester actually starts, and I’m worried that once I’ve got the PhD, I’ll get less work because they have to pay me more. Casual teaching seems to be all that’s available, but it’s your research that gets you a job! It’s a constant tension. I’m really swamped right now, by the weekend I feel shattered but then I need to write. I don’t know whether this is all worth it. These snippets of conversation are based on a survey of early career academics (ECAs) in three Australian universities (Matthews, Lodge & Bosanquet, 2014). The study participants articulated considerable uncertainty and indecision about their future in academia. The affective language used in their responses makes this palpable: miserable, embittered, shattered, suffering, isolated, worn out, swamped, stressed, and dissatisfied. From what we have been told by participants in the study, this is situationally induced anxiety. With long-standing scholarly interest in the nature and work of universities, through our professional and academic roles, teaching experience and involvement in union representation, we have come to the conclusion that this situation – in which ECAs’ lives are fraught with constant anxiety and stress, pressure to perform, income insecurity and uncertainty about the future – exists largely because of the transmission of institutional anxieties about essentially the same concerns. The difference, of course, is that institutional structures, processes and hierarchies enable the passing down of anxiety to the most


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

vulnerable staff in the university. Indeed, we would argue that these institutional structures and processes create a vulnerable class of employees and maintain the precariousness of their situation through the transmission of anxiety.

Why are our institutions 'anxious'? Consider the 'big picture' trends in higher education over the last three decades: globalisation, massification and marketisation. Australian higher education is now a mass participation system (30-50 per cent of the school-leaver age cohort enrolled in HE) and may move into high participation status (>50 per cent enrolled) in the near future. On its own, this should lead to greater demand for academic staff and opportunities for continuing employment. But at the same time, governments have systematically withdrawn per-student public funding from universities, substituting secure base funding with contestable funding reliant on market-like competitive mechanisms (marketisation). Globalisation (of students, staff and institutions themselves) and a level of deregulation have provided universities with an opportunity to supplement domestic funding with full-fee-paying international students. This carries its own risks: a financial crisis in a major source country can have a devastating effect on the finances of institutions which have become dependent on that funding to cross-subsidise research and teaching. So what institutional anxieties might our university managers discuss over a coffee? It’s not purely speculation to move from eavesdropping on the campus café conversation to a senior management planning meeting and imagine the following exchanges: Q: Should we focus on bringing in more students? A: It’s not difficult to do that but we need to consider the type of students. With uncapped places, we’ve been accepting lower ATARs. Teaching staff complain of falling standards. We’re not really equipped to support these students so they drop out. Our retention figures are quite unstable and there’s a lot of uncertainty in our load planning. Q: But if we boost our research output, that will attract better students – can we divert some more money to support research?

A: We’ve been doing that, but it’s a longer-term strategy. A higher ranking for research output will bring in more international students but our competitors in Asia are racing up the league tables. It’s hard for us to make much headway. Other countries are making massive investments in universities and they continue to overtake us.

Fighting anxiety

Q: Staff cost us a lot of money, so should we increase casuals?

Be visible. Stand up together – if precariously employed staff are doing 50-80 per cent of the classroom teaching (it varies between disciplines and universities) then together you can be a powerful force. We need our universities to acknowledge that they are only viable because they are exploiting sessional staff – and that their systematic maintenance of vulnerability through transmission of anxiety is unethical and inhumane.

A: We’re already highly casualised and it is eroding research capacity. Casuals can’t supervise HDRs and we need to attract more research students. Q: We have some non-research-active staff – should we try to create more teaching-focused positions or replace them with higher-performing researchers? A: That’s on the agenda – not so much the teaching-focused positions because it’s cheaper to use casuals – but we are setting higher research targets and expectations. We’ll clear out the non-contributing staff over the next couple of years, or at least give them higher teaching loads, which will cut the proportion of casuals. But that doesn’t save us the money we need to employ more productive researchers. We can also imagine a conversation when the consequences of senior management decision-making mean Heads of Department need to cut staffing costs while raising research output: I was worried the budget was going to be tight next year – and now they want us to hit these research targets as well! I don’t know how we’ll do it. If we have to cut casuals we’ll need people to do more teaching – but they’re already overloaded… I’ll just have to share it as evenly as possible. But you can’t load up productive researchers with more teaching! I’ll have to push more teaching onto the people who aren’t keeping up with publications. They’re not going to like it. We might replace PhD-qualified tutors with HDR students. We’re winding up a program and a couple of majors that weren’t paying their way, then we can shed some fixed-termers when their contracts end. We moved to fortnightly tutes three years ago and students were upset about that. There’s just not much more fat to cut in teaching… I suppose we could reconfigure the tutes as workshops and pay demonstrator rates to the tutors… It’s not hard to imagine these conversations happening, which shows how effective and insidious this transmission of anxiety is – so what can we do?

Get organised. Join the NTEU and ask others to join. Work collectively to determine what you’d like the union to prioritise – and then act on it. Fight off the anxiety through mutual support and action.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities your university offers. Although it’s still unusual for universities to provide paid professional development beyond basic staff induction, there is growing awareness of the need to ensure that all staff are appropriately trained and equipped to teach students. There is a gradual realisation that it’s in universities’ interests to provide paid professional development for sessional staff – let’s help them along by campaigning for it. Finally, talk to your students so that they understand the pressures staff are under. They should demand better – not because they’re paying fees (don’t encourage them to think of themselves as customers!) but because education is a fundamental right, and this country is wealthy enough to provide quality – both in education of students and in the working lives of those who teach and research in our educational institutions. Matthews, K. E., Lodge, J. M. & Bosanquet, A. (2014). Early career academic perceptions, attitudes and professional development activities: questioning the teaching and research gap to further academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 19 (2), 112-124. 360144X.2012.724421

This article is drawn from a presentation delivered to the 5th International Academic Identities Conference, 29 June–1 July, University of Sydney. The findings presented at the conference form one component of the broader findings of the study referred to in the article. The authors intend to conduct further analysis on the data and publish on the topic. Agnes Bosanquet is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Human Sciences at Macquarie University, and a member of the NTEU Macquarie University Branch Committee. Cathy Rytmeister has recently taken up a position as Strategic Lead for Professional Development and Quality Assurance at Macquarie University. Prior to this she was a Lecturer in Academic Development in Macquarie's Learning and Teaching Centre. She is about to step down after 6 years as NTEU Macquarie Branch President and a member of the NTEU National and NSW Division Executives.

read online at


It's time for a


Insecure employment has become unacceptably common in the Australian higher education sector in recent years. The obsessive pursuit of reduced job security by university managements, under the guise of ‘flexibility’, has had a damaging impact on our workplaces. Over the past decade, only two out of 10 new staff have been employed on a permanent basis, and only three out of 10 have been hired on a full time equivalent (FTE) basis.

for precariously employed staff

It’s a significant issue not only for those confronted with the daily reality of precarious employment, but also for those ongoing staff grappling with the rising tide of employment insecurity.

By Andrew MacDonald Media & Communications Officer

This interconnected web of issues requires attention. That’s why the NTEU has launched its Fair Go campaign in a push to improve job security and address some key concerns for continuing, casual and fixed term staff.

Sham redundancies, spill and fill and unnecessary restructures of university departments have all contributed to the proliferation of insecure work, via the elimination of ongoing positions, increased casualisation and the proliferation of fixed term contracts.

Casual staff It has been well documented that over 50 per cent of staff who teach undergraduate students are casual, and continue to be casual, with no continuing job prospects. It is unacceptable that staff performing such valuable and vital work are forced to contend with the stresses an pressures of work, while also dealing with the additional insecurities in life that come with insecure employment – planning a family, getting a mortgage, worrying when the next job might come and having no paid holidays or sick leave. The Union will continue building on its previous work fighting for improved conditions and job security for casual staff as part of the Fair Go campaign.

Continuing staff Every year more than 1.5 per cent of the tertiary education workforce is made redundant, with a high proportion not being genuine redundancies. Sham redundancies (where the positions and people disappear but the work continues) have sadly become part of the culture in most, if not all, universities. Rough estimates show that sham redundancies have cost public universities approximately $1 billion per year. It has also become a convenient way to move staff on despite the continuation of the work they were performing. Too many times, in universities around the country, we have seen a mass round of redundancies that wipe out whole departments and long term jobs. Often, a few months later the work is advertised at a lower level, or as casual or fixed term positions, further undermining the integrity of our higher education system. Otherwise, following a restructure, staff are forced to re-apply for their own, or slightlychanged jobs through ‘spill and fill’ processes. It’s not efficient, it’s not fair and it’s something the NTEU will be targeting through the Fair Go Campaign.


Connect // Volume 9, no. 1

Semester 1, 2016


Not having a full time position has eroded my confidence in both teaching and research.

Restructures wear our workplaces down. They create tension and anxiety instead of happy and productive environments. Constant and unnecessary restructures are inefficient and unfair. Help us stop the rot, visit

Go to to tell our universities to put people before profits.

Advice Advocacy Action

Putting people first

Authorised by Grahame McCulloch, NTEU, 120 Clarendon St, South Melbourne VIC 3205

Authorised by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, NTEU, 120 Clarendon St, South Melbourne VIC 3205

You should be focused on your work, not worried about your job

“Having to constantly apply for work is draining.”

Putting people first

A fair go for all staff

Fixed-term contract staff The employment of staff on short term contracts by university managements has become an increasingly common part of working in higher education, especially in relation to research staff. Our 2015 State of the Uni survey revealed that 44.2 per cent of contract research staff are employed on contracts of one year or less, even if they have been employed in the sector for over 20 years. Where fixed-term contracts are extended and renewed year after year, these positions should be made into continuing jobs. There is no excuse for leaving staff – who time and time again have shown they’re good enough to have their contracts renewed – languishing in fixed term employment. Moreover, it is the Union’s view that incumbents should have a right to the job when their contract is up for renewal, instead of management 'testing the market' each time.

Its hard to innovate on a six month contract

Putting people first

The issues confronting fixed term contract staff will be another key focus of the Fair Go campaign.

Fair Go campaign While the challenges in confronting the proliferation of insecure employment and workplace instability are significant, the NTEU remains committed to meeting these head on in the immediate, medium and longer term through its Fair Go campaign. To that end, Fair Go campaign material has been compiled at our new website, with campaign activities to be rolled out in the days, weeks and months ahead. To effect genuine change, however, we need members on board. To help us stop the rot, join the NTEU, sign up a colleague and tell us your stories. It’s time for a fair go.

read online at



Stocking Casuals By Terri MacDonald Policy & Research Officer

This was the fifth consecutive year that the NTEU and the National Union of Students (NUS) ran Bluestocking Week (15–19 August), an annual event that recognises the achievements of women in higher education. Bluestocking Week is also a reminder to us that while women have long struggled for equality and a voice in their own agency, that challenge still remains with us today. This year’s Bluestocking Week focused on pursuing 'a feminist agenda'. While the ongoing emphasis on assessing the current status and trajectory of gender equity and the advancement of women in higher education and research continues, the theme also provokes us to continuously challenge not just gender inequity, but the undermining of women who contest male power and control. While the neoliberal university embraces gender equity policies, women report that many of the gains made in recognising their value and in career advancement seem to have stalled, and women equity advocates are often ignored. The gender pay gap persists (even at universities) and women graduates earn less at graduation, which then widens once they have children, resulting in problems around financial independence and insufficient superannuation savings. This gender pay gap, and the inequity surrounding it, is in part attributed to the high levels of insecure and underemployment of women. The lower economic (and often social) value given to roles where women dominate also impacts on gender equity, as does the tendency for the career progression of women to stall, or stagnate, at the mid-level. These are all issues familiar to women working in the higher education sector, be it as academics, researchers, general or professional staff. What’s more is that the anecdotal experiences often expressed to the NTEU, by women working in higher education is also reflected in hard data. Each year, university employers are legislatively required to submit to the Workplace


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) reporting on a number of gender equality benchmarks.

Head count data exposes gendered face of casualisation Importantly, these reports also include a head count on staff, by gender and employment status. Now in their fifth year, the reports show not only that insecure work in universities is rife, but that it is highly gendered, with women over represented in casual and contract work across almost all work areas. Conversely, in the majority of employment categories at most universities, women are under-represented in management and senior levels. The WGEA reports also demonstrate the vast differences between the actual number of employees that work at a university and the Department of Education’s official data for staffing at that institutions. Much of the difference is because universities report full time equivalent (FTE) numbers to the Government, rather than headcounts, which has disguised the number of real (actual) numbers. This has been especially problematic with casual numbers, as one FTE can be made up by as many as six or more individual casual workers. However, as an FTE is based on full time working hours, by dividing the actual numbers by the casual FTE data, we can see the workloads of casual staff - and that varies considerably. A number of universities had a very low ratio of casual FTE’s to actual workers, meaning that these staff are working close to (and in some cases) over an average full time load. Other universities however, had very high ratios, showing as many as ten or more actual workers to one FTE. Although extreme opposites, both of these examples show there is real misuse of casual employment in many universities – either through under or over, employment. These are not small numbers either – the trend for casual employment is currently running at between 60–70 per cent across the sector, depending on work area and the institution.

The NTEU’s research backs up what our women members are telling us – that there are clear patterns of gender inequity in our universities, which certainly do not place them in a positive light. While university managements may pay lip service to improving gender equity, until insecure employment and real workforce planning are addressed, there is little hope that entrenched gender inequity can change for the better. University managements are addicted to the mantra of a ‘flexible workforce’ as a means of both keeping staffing costs down and undermining workplace rights – yet the overuse of insecure employment erodes staff morale, leads to high staff turnover (which impacts on the quality of teaching and research) and entrenches inequity. Clearly it’s up to the Union to lead the way by addressing these and other issues that impact on casual staff – predominantly women – working in higher education, through campaigns such as those rolled out in Bluestocking Week. But also in our bargaining and our broader lobbying of the sector and government. The employers have, once again, failed in that task.

Domestic Violence Leave and casual staff Victorian Supercasuals women’s caucus launched a new campaign in Bluestocking Week for Domestic Violence Leave (DVL) for all university casual staff calling on universities to Make the Pledge to extend DVL to all staff. Currently only Swinburne provides DVL to all staff. For an overview of the activities undertaken nationally in Bluestocking Week: There will be a more comprehensive report on Bluestocking Week in the upcoming edition of the NTEU women’s magazine, Agenda.

read online at


STF success at Sydney By Michael Thomson President, University of Sydney Branch

Central to the NTEU University of Sydney Branch's last bargaining campaign was improving academic casuals working conditions and decreasing the number of casuals. Local workplace meetings, leafleting at the university entrances, special meetings, rallies and seven days of strikes were all used to engage members and bring a grass roots campaigning approach to all our tactics. At every meeting we would report on the management’s rotten attitude to casual academics. Our causal activists’ network responded with their own actions. They rallied outside the University Senate (governing body) with banners and street theatre: 'Flexibility – more than bending over backwards' (pictured below). The new Agreement included 80 Scholarly Teaching Fellowships (STFs) by 1 July 2016. These positions are to replace casual teaching work. After five years of probation and confirmation periods the STFs will become 40/40/20 ongoing academics. The Agreement also includes 440 Early Career Development Fellowships (ECDFs) by 31 March 2017. Implementing our new Agreement was a Branch priority. The University management tried its hardest to avoid appointing any STFs. Members speculated this was because those that controlled local budgets thought if they didn’t appoint STFs then the centre would pay for them. In March this year there were less than 10 STFs. Compare that number to the number of meetings we had with management over STFs, more than 20! The NTEU lodged a dispute. After more meetings, Fair Work Commission hearings and campaigning the University created 82 STF positions by 1 July. Now there are 87 STFs. The Branch is committed to ensuring these positions replace casual teaching work. It is on the agenda for all Management and Staff Consultative meetings – management has to prove they are reducing casual teaching work. Our next job is to implement the ECDF provisions.


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

Claire Parfitt What was your experience and involvement in the Sydney Branch campaign to secure the STF positions? I was involved in the 2013 Sydney University bargaining campaign, working with other casual and contract staff through the Casuals Network. We started working together in 2012, before the bargaining began, to create a Log of Claims specifically aimed at the needs of casual staff. We worked on many issues, but one of the most important was to create pathways out of precarious forms of employment. For this reason, we advocated STFs and ECDFs to replace some portion of casual labour, as a key plank of our Log. We met regularly to develop our relationships with one and other, as well as to clarify our shared aims with respect to the bargaining, and to make plans for action. Once bargaining started, we both supported the union's campaigning work, as well as doing our own actions. In support of the union, we attended pickets on strike days, as a group, to make the casual staff presence visible and strong. Our own actions involved, for example, holding a 'yoga class' outside a university senate meeting, to highlight the conditions of casual staff forced to be 'flexible' by management demands. We also held a 'mark-in' action outside the VC's office to highlight the lack of resources available for casuals to get their work done.

Dr Ben Brown In May this year I applied for an STF in Classics and Ancient History and was successful. It is a full-time continuing position at level A with a pathway to promotion. My new position commenced in July and in 4 short weeks has transformed my life. Prior to this appointment I had held many sessional contracts, almost all at the University of Sydney, for almost 15 years. The life of the sessional academic is often full of worry and disappointment. There are looming contract terminations, anxiety at the end of each semester, precarious summers, research programmes frustrated either by heavy workloads or no work at all, and the roller coaster of a feast-or-famine existence. Then there is the ambiguity of one’s itinerant status within a department, the temporary shared offices, and the lack of access to longer-term support and resources. It is often full of Catch-22 moments: a long CV of teaching and coordination is acquired, but at the expense of the international research profile that is the necessary condition of contemporary full-time appointment – the more one accepts the bits of work on offer the less competitive one becomes for the ‘real’ positions. In this way many very talented casual academics spin their wheels for years while watching their permanent colleagues move their careers ahead. Indeed, this relationship, starting in the 90s,

What do you see as the value of STF's for individuals and for the institution? We are only just seeing the employment of all the STFs that we bargained for in 2013. It remains to be seen (and the Union must do research into this question) what the impact of the STFs at different universities, and on staff (both the STFs themselves and other staff), has been. If, as we hope, STFs provide a pathway out of casual employment, this will undoubtedly change some workers' lives very significantly. Workers in precarious roles do not have access to what others consider basic entitlements like leave and regular working hours. Many of our workplaces have great Enterprise Agreements with fantastic conditions, but we have to ask ourselves: What is the value of these conditions if only a fraction of the staff have access to them?

What are your hopes for casual staff at the University of Sydney heading into the next round of Enterprise Bargaining? Our sector remains one of the most casualised in the economy. Many casual staff still face huge challenges in terms of underemployment, uncertainty, pressure to perform unpaid work and much more. We are just beginning our preparations for the 2017 bargaining campaign, but I am confident that if casual activists work together as we have in the past, we will continue to improve our working lives together. Claire Parfitt is a PhD student in political economy at the University of Sydney. Claire is the casual staff representative on the University of Sydney Branch Committee.

followed a US trend – a cruel symbiosis between the professional researcher with secure employment and the professional teacher, often on temporary contracts and subject to the caprice of departmental budgets. Thus what begins as a temporary situation was normalised. Yet, for many casual academics the commitment to their work transcends mere remuneration; their contracts may be casual but their identification with the goals and aspirations of the Academy is not. They often continue not only because departments depend on their professionalism, passion and versatility, but also because of their belief in the vital public role of their discipline and the university as a whole. It is therefore a cause for much optimism that the University of Sydney, through the NTEU, has begun opening up permanent employment opportunities to long-term casual university scholarteachers through this new STF position. Since my appointment I feel a revitalised sense of worth about the work I do, not just for being recognised for the contribution I have made, but for the contribution that I can and will make to the university’s public capital of teaching and research. This is a win-win outcome for both sides: our teaching and research productivity will increase because of the job security and support structures available to permanent staff, while the university and its students net the windfall of our collective centuries of teaching, administrative and research experience – all for much less than the brutal material and social cost of casualisation. Ben Brown is a Scholarly Teaching Fellow in Ancient History in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry.

read online at


Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander university staff

Danger in casual jobs By Celeste Liddle Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Organiser

As part of the mandatory claims in bargaining, the NTEU has included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets as part of all university collective agreements. When this claim was first introduced back in 2001, there were just over 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff employed in universities across the country. That number has more than doubled over the past three bargaining rounds. With over one thousand new positions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people agreed upon in the previous round, the NTEU is dedicated to pushing for at least parity numbers of employment, and preferably more.

Early full-time job growth Initially, the growth in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff was attributable mainly to an increase in full-time positions. Many of these were fixed-term contracts as the majority of Aboriginal Education Centres and research projects are reliant on 'soft funding' (related to governmental Indigenous Support programs and philanthropic donation) rather than university money. For the most part though, these roles mainly tended to be full-time and conversion to ongoing roles was not uncommon over time. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff cohort remained mostly untouched by the broader university trend towards casualisation. In an environment which remains greatly celebratory of Western canon knowledges and practices, the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff reached one per cent of the sector, then seemingly plateaued, has meant that we are more likely to be employed in substantial capacities. There is a need to grow staff and diversify curriculum and student cohorts and therefore there has been a need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to fill these roles. This was further reinforced via the Behrendt Review, which recommended a 'whole of university approach' to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support and a staff profile of at least 2.2 per cent.

Shift to casualisation Unfortunately, this trend of more stable employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff seems to be shifting. Over the past few years, the gap between the actual number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff employed in the sector and the full-time equivalent number has been widening. This indicates that more and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being employed casually, on lesser fractions and/or on more precarious contracts.


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

It’s a concerning trend when juxtaposed with the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staffing numbers actually dropped across the sector in 2015 – the first time this has happened in ten years. The implications of a more precarious and casualised workforce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff are far-reaching. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student cohort is continuing to grow, albeit slowly, and staff continuity is crucial to the success of these students. In 2015 the Turnbull Government reconfigured the funding arrangements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students so that the focus is less on the numbers of students in the sector and more on the successful progression of these students through their chosen courses. It is therefore to the benefit of students that they have access to appropriately funded Aboriginal Education Units on campus and that these centres are staffed by a steady Aboriginal and Torres Strait workforce dedicated to culturally appropriate support.

Indigenous knowledges The implication for the growth of Indigenous knowledges within the sector is also concerning. For the most part, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing remain housed within discrete departments of universities and the idea that all students should leave Australian universities having gained Indigenous knowledges is still very much in its early stages.

NTEU support The NTEU remains supportive of employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in the sector, and will be actively pushing for advanced and solidified targets in round seven bargaining. While casual positions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are crucial when it comes to access to employment and capacity-building, the NTEU remains steadfast in its view that casual appointments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be short-term (rather than rolling casual contracts) and should be made with the view that these roles be reviewed for permanency as a priority. Finally, ongoing positions with opportunities for promotion are crucial at closing the economic gap between black and white Australia. Casual positions do not provide this financial stability. At a time where universities need to be growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander curriculum, the idea that they could view these things as temporary measures is deeply concerning. The NTEU encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff who have been on rolling casual contracts to contact their local branch for support investigating prospects for ongoing employment.

The obvious people to be delivering these knowledges to the student cohorts are current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait students who are nurtured through the system and who decide to pursue academic careers. However, what incentive is there for talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to undertake academic careers if there is little prospect of employment security? With other sectors such as the public sector and the mining sector offering more substantial roles to university-educated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the prospects of encouraging these students to remain in the system is low. Additionally, a growing casualised workforce around Indigenous knowledges and support generally shows a lack of investment by universities in these things due to low interest. That these things could ever be viewed as 'temporary investments' by university management, rather than crucial, is deeply concerning. As the current government has made it clear that fee deregulation is on their agenda (even if they have been unsuccessful twice at getting these changes through the Senate), there is no real incentive for universities to focus on equity measures. Indeed, it ensures that the focus remains on those most privileged who can pay their way into education.

read online at


How to improve conditions for the

academic precariat

One of the biggest challenges to face universities in an era of globalisation is the increased reliance on part-time instructors. Recent PhD graduates are less and less likely to find full-time, permanent work and are forced into casual teaching positions with low salaries and no benefits. Although these instructors are highly qualified, they are on the periphery of institutions with little access to institutional resources or decision-making processes. Their situation is precarious and they are struggling for recognition. Fortunately, in the Canadian context, this group is receiving interest from unions and researchers who now advocate on their behalf. On 11 and 12 February the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, or OCUFA, hosted a conference in Toronto showcasing research about precarious, part-time instructors from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Although there is a long way to go, collective organising and new governance structures are providing hope that more equitable hiring practices are possible at Canada’s universities.

Precarious or flexible labour

By Grace Karram Stephenson University of Toronto

Precarious, casual or flexible labour is certainly not an exclusive phenomenon of post-secondary education. Indeed, when championing the cause of exploited labour, migrant workers or low-wage service providers would definitely garner more support than university lecturers. But several recent studies suggest that precarious instructors do not earn enough money for their basic needs and are increasingly forced to hold multiple jobs with little job security. The negative impact is not just financial. Precarious instructors have many of the health problems associated with other insecure, low-wage jobs. Commuting to multiple job sites, carrying classroom resources in the absence of an office or walking across large campuses since parking or transit passes are not provided – all of these result in physical and psychological exhaustion for part-time instructors. In the Australian context the research of Robyn May from Griffith University has shown that women are particularly at risk. The cycles of a woman’s academic career occur alongside family


Connect // Volume 9, no. 2

Semester 2, 2016

responsibilities that leave women out of a highly competitive university market (see Connect vol. 9, no. 1).

or dwindle into poverty. Fortunately, as this OCUFA conference highlighted, a brighter future is possible.

Other minority groups are also overrepresented among precarious instructors confirming that this new mode of academic employment pushes marginalised groups further down the social ladder.

The conference was designed to move beyond critique and suggest new modes of academic labour with fair wages and job security. Speakers included Guy Standing from the University of London and author of The Precariat, Karen Foster, author of Generation, Discourse and Social Change from Dalhousie University, and Ontario-based advocates – all of whom made important suggestions to reform hiring practices at Canada’s postsecondary institutions.

Canada In Canada there seems to be little awareness among the broader public that their universities are operating on the backs of underpaid instructors who may not be rehired next semester. The OCUFA conference showcased a recent public opinion survey by Mission Research that contacted 1,000 Canadians to examine their view on precarious instructors. Most were unaware of the new trend toward part-time instructors. When asked, respondents agreed that part-time instructors should be paid an equivalent salary to full-time, tenured professors if they conduct the same work, but most did not want this to be financed by their tax dollars. The Mission Research team suggests that economic struggles have left Canadians worried about their own employment rather than labour issues at post-secondary institutions. Not surprisingly, economic concerns were a central part of why universities changed their hiring practices. As government funding for institutions decreased and administrators were forced to make up the shortfall, they turned to the flexible hiring practices of the corporate world. The comparatively large number of PhD graduates offered a willing supply of instructors who would teach on contract while waiting for their full-time jobs to materialise, although they rarely did. At the same time the pressures of global ranking meant that universities needed to maintain a certain number of prestigious, tenure-track, research jobs. Few institutions can afford to make these the majority of positions offered. Currently, the situation at many universities is a startling divide in wages between low-paid casual instructors and highly paid prestigious researchers.

Governance change and political representation The situation is not pretty. Too many competent, highly educated instructors are being forced to find work outside the university

Notably, the first step involves changing university governance to be more inclusive of part-time instructors and address their needs. Too often, these instructors remain invisible if they do not have representation at all levels of university decision-making. Another necessary change is to increase the value placed on teaching at our universities. Certain institutions, like the University of Toronto, have experimented with teaching-stream, tenure positions. This new category validates teaching work and many long-time faculty adopted this status when it became available earlier this year. Multi-year contracts are another step in the right direction and particularly important for small institutions that do not have resources to hire full-time faculty, but want to promote continuity of instructors. Perhaps the most important message from the OCUFA conference is that precarious employees from all sectors need to organise collectively. It is too easy for part-time instructors to feel isolated and invisible as they move in and out of large campuses on a temporary basis. Developing new spaces for organising, both online and in-person, is essential to bring about equity for all precarious employees in universities, technical colleges and beyond. Grace Karram Stephenson is a doctoral candidate in higher and international education in the department of leadership, higher and adult education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada. This article originally published in University World News, 26 February 2016, Issue No:402 php?story=20160223152208193

read online at


get edXpress! Subscribe to edXpress, NTEU’s monthly free e-news service 1512_NTEU_Casuals_Poster_3.pdf



3:10 pm

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

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




3:10 pm



 I want to join NTEU  I am currently a member and wish to update my details The information on this form is needed for aspects of NTEU’s work and will be treated as confidential.






































You may resign by written notice to the Division or Branch Secretary. Where you cease to be eligible to become a member, resignation shall take effect on the date the notice is received or on the day specified in your notice, whichever is later. In any other case, you must give at least two weeks notice. Members are required to pay dues and levies as set by the Union from time to time in accordance with NTEU rules. Further information on financial obligations, including a copy Office use only: Membership no. of the rules, is available from your Branch.



Membership fees = 1% of gross annual salary


Office use only: % of salary deducted








— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —





Choose your salary range. Select 6 month or 1 year membership. Tick the appropriate box. Pay by cheque, money order or credit card.

Salary range

6 months

12 months

$10,000 & under: $10,001–$20,000: Over $20,000:

 $27.50  $38.50  $55

 $55  $77  $110


Processed on the 15th of the month or following working day



Full text of DDR available at







CARD NUMBER — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —




I hereby authorise the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) APCA User ID No.062604 to arrange for funds to be debited from my/our account at the financial institution identified and in accordance with the terms described in the Direct Debit Request (DDR) Service Agreement



1. 2. 3. 4.


I hereby authorise the Merchant to debit my Card account with the amount and at intervals specified above and in the event of any change in the charges for these goods/ services to alter the amount from the appropriate date in accordance with such change. This authority shall stand, in respect of the above specified Card and in respect of any Card issued to me in renewal or replacement thereof, until I notify the Merchant in writing of its cancellation. Standing Authority for Recurrent Periodic Payment by Credit Card.




I hereby authorise the Institution or its duly authorised servants and agents to deduct from my salary by regular instalments, dues and levies (as determined from time to time by the Union), to NTEU or its authorised agents. All payments on my behalf and in accordance with this authority shall be deemed to be payments by me personally. This authority shall remain in force until revoked by me in writing. I also consent to my employer supplying NTEU with updated information relating to my employment status.


Processed on the 16th of the month or following working day




Description of goods/services: NTEU Membership Dues. To: NTEU, PO Box 1323, Sth Melbourne VIC 3205

‡Associated bodies: NTEU (NSW); Union of Australian College Academics (WA Branch) Industrial Union of Workers at Edith Cowan University & Curtin University; Curtin University Staff Association (Inc.) at Curtin University; Staff Association of Edith Cowan University (Inc.) at ECU

MAIL TO: NTEU National Office PO Box 1323, South Melbourne VIC 3205 T (03) 9254 1910 F (03) 9254 1915 E

Your NTEU Member Benefits

• • • • • • •

Dining Entertainment Shopping Travel Technology Financial Insurance

Member Advantage is the ultimate benefit experience. Your NTEU Member Advantage program offers you and your family unlimited use and allows you to save money on your everyday expenses. Access an extensive range of financial and lifestyle member benefits.

How do I access my benefits? Your member benefits can be accessed by phone and online via the Member Advantage website. For your dining and entertainment benefits, simply show the Ambassador Card logo on the front of your membership card at the point of sale. This membership card is also available in a digital version, accessible on your smartphone.

How do I use the Member Advantage website? Visit for full details of the benefits available to you and your family. Please note that you will need to enter your membership number as your password. This number is also displayed on the front of your NTEU Member Advantage card, for future reference.

Call NTEU Member Advantage on 1300 853 352

“All of life is a constant education.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Every day you inspire, helping people grow. You’re the leaders, the educators and the professional staff that make aspiring students’ dreams possible. That’s why we’re invested in you. As a customer owned bank, dedicated solely to the education community, our profits go back to you through competitive financial solutions, more personalised service and support of education. As a bank for educators, we understand the needs of contract and part-time staff. Tertiary employees and their families, nationwide are welcome to bank with us.

Call 1300 654 822 I Visit


I Save I Borrow I Invest I Protect

Congratulations UniSuper members, we're Super Fund of the Year ...again!

The Chant West awards recognise funds that deliver the very best in investment performance, fees and member services.

1800 331 685


Important information: This advertisement has been prepared and issued by UniSuper Management Pty Ltd. ABN 91 006 961 799, AFSL No. 235907, on behalf of UniSuper Limited ABN 54 006 027 121 as Trustee of UniSuper ABN 91 385 943 850, the Fund. For further information about the methodology used by Chant West, see

Connect 09 02  

Vol. 9, no. 2. NTEU & CAPA magazine for casual and sessional academics in Australian universities.