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Vol. 10 No. 1 March 2017


A decade of Connect Improving job security through bargaining It's time for a Fair Go for precariously employed staff Why I Stand with Uni Casuals Scholarly Teaching Fellows: The experience so far Cumulating cuts & casualisation undermining academia discipline by discipline Unsettled lives? Academic precarity, gender & personal life Union power & democracy in an age of casualisation Academics join the Trump resistance

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


The fight for workplace justice


How to train your research student


Improving job security through bargaining


Domestic Violence Leave for all staff


Casualisation and A&TSI staff


10 years connecting casuals


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

10 Why I Stand with Casuals 11

Sociology Academics stand with casuals

12 Cumulating cuts & casualisation undermining academia discipline by discipline 14 Union power & democracy .in an age of casualisation 16 Unsettled lives? Academic precarity, gender & personal life 18 How to improve conditions for young workers 20 Scholarly Teaching Fellows: The experience so far 21 NZ #lovehumanities day a big success 22 The Trump resistance 22 Exploitation of zero hour contracts

Connect is a publication of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). All Rights Reserved Š 2017. ISSN 1836-8522 (Print)/ISSN 1836-8530 (Online)

Editor: Jeannie Rea Production: Paul Clifton Editorial Assistance: Anastasia Kotaidis 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: national@nteu.org.au Web: www.unicasual.org.au www.nteu.org.au www.capa.edu.au The views expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors, and not necessarily the official views of NTEU or CAPA.

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.

NTEU Editorial

The fight for workplace justice NTEU SuperCasuals joined the Melbourne contingent of the national trade union rallies on 9 March. These rallies were originally organised by the building industry unions to protest the anti-union ABCC legislation, but had expanded to take on the federal Coalition Government’s support for the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates. The NTEU National Women’s Action Committee, meeting in Melbourne that day adjourned to join the march, along with representatives of the nurses and services unions. In a march of predominantly men in heavy boots and hard hats, it was important for ‘white collar’ and women workers to be there in solidarity, but also because the antiunion and anti-worker agenda of the Coalition and their corporate supporters is increasingly dominating industrial relations across all sectors, including higher education. Higher education is now one of the most precarious areas to work in Australia. Only two out of ten newly appointed staff are employed on a permanent basis, or three out of ten on a FTE basis; and two-thirds of the total number of staff in universities are employed insecurely. Penalty rates may not be a feature of jobs in our sector, but when we consider that so many casually employed academics are also working in hospitality and retail to make ends meet, penalty rates do directly impact upon higher education workers. Aggressive anti-union tactics are also seeping into our sector. NTEU members at Murdoch University had been negotiating a new Enterprise Agreement for eight months, along with the other WA universities, when last December the management applied to terminate the Agreement. Terminating an Agreement would mean reverting to the much lower Award salaries and conditions. This is the first termination application in a public sector and white collar area; previously it has been a tactic in the mining and energy sector to drive down wages and conditions, and to de-unionise. The case is scheduled for May. Consequently, what was already looking like a tough bargaining round, is now even more difficult. The NTEU though will not retreat from our priority of increasing job security. While some universities may be intent on winding back conditions, NTEU Branches are still logging our job security priorities of stopping sham redundancies, which includes cases where secure jobs are being abolished, but the work in continued by casual appointments. We are seeking to double the number of new teaching-focused jobs offered to casuals; and to harden and enforce casual and fixed term conversion clauses. Enforcement must be a major focus, as in many places we already have the clauses to improve job security, as well as the pay and conditions of casual and fixed term staff. We need to identify these opportunities to insecurely employed staff, join more people to the Union and mobilise collectively to make change. This has been how we have been effective in the past as chronicled in

Connect over the past ten years; and it is the strategic focus of the NTEU’s national secure work campaign 20172020 (see report p. 8). Whilst casualisation of academic teaching continues to proliferate, casualised staff have organised amongst themselves and with other NTEU members to campaign for improved pay and conditions and for more secure jobs. Over the decade, we have also seen the emergence of many social media platforms, which academic casuals have found encouraging, supportive and also a means to put pressure on the Union to take up and persist with issues. Social media has also enabled us to link up with individuals, groups and unions organising internationally and share and learn from one another. While we do learn, the NTEU also influences others as we focus upon legally enforceable industrial Agreements, as well as publicity activities to heighten public awareness. We also applaud those American ‘adjuncts’ that take illegal strike action, that may well leave them without any work. In this edition we also feature how other Australian unions are organising around insecure work (see p. 14). Of interest too are the approaches of unions in countries where they can exert pressure on governments to legislate directly against precarious work. In Germany, for example, legislation was passed last year to limit fixed term research contracts. We have a different structure in Australia, and to date we have had no success in advocating for university operating grants to be tied to caps on casual and fixed term contract staff numbers. In an environment where universities blame lack of government funding for their appalling workforce policies, while governments claim it is not their business how universities choose to allocate their budgets, we need to apportion and demand responsibility from both. We are heading towards another federal budget in May where the Coalition Government remains committed to the 2014 $3.5 billion higher education funding cut and twenty per cent cut in university operating grants. Many universities, though, are still amassing surpluses while running down their ongoing staff numbers. Be encouraged by Theresa Petray’s ‘Why I stand with casuals’ and the Sociological Association’s (TASA) working document detailing “practical responses to the increasingly widespread, destructive and exploitative use of contingent labour in academia” (see p. 11). Read Lara McKenzie’s research on the experiences of casual academics (p. 16) and James Goodman and others' investigation into the STFs (p. 20). Consider the academic disciplinary impacts of casualisation and how we can organise around this (p. 12). Joining the Union, encouraging others to do so and then standing up for your rights, and being supported by other Union members puts you in the best company. I am always interested in your thoughts and feedback and can be contacted at jrea@nteu.org.au

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


CAPA Editorial

How to train your research student Another year of reviews into the higher education sector has passed us by and here we sit both impatient and worried for the higher education reforms promised by the Federal Government. We can expect some variation of fee deregulation, a focus on completion rates or employability (or both), and a way to claw back more from the supposedly ballooning HECS/HELP debt. In fact by the time you read this we could be in the midst of fighting to keep higher education accessible and affordable for everyone. Surprisingly though, today I am going to focus on how to train your research student instead of the issues of national higher education reform. The higher education system is undergoing rather large changes due to the “digital revolution”, but the way in which we train research students has not really changed beyond the “training my replacement” days. The problem with that training method is centred on the fact that we are now training more researchers than academia can handle (or at least the scarce funding can accommodate). Unless you have been living under a rock we are all well aware that research students are not likely to gain a tenured academic position and they will either enter higher education not as a researcher but in another capacity or leave academia for the world beyond. So how do we train research students that will have to be able to navigate an ever changing career path? There is a lot of talk about reimagining the PhD, bringing in courses to develop transferable skills, and industry internships but there is a theoretically simple step that needs to be taken first and can occur at the level of the supervisor/student relationship. But it is a cultural change. Cultural changes are infinitely more difficult and it might lead to fewer publications which some supervisors may see as a cost to their own publication output. It is, however, the single step that needs to be taken before any of the methods stated above can be implemented. Supervisors and schools need to support the diverse career paths of their students. Simple right? I don’t just mean support students to attend conferences and to publish papers but rather support students to do things that may not be directly related to their all-consuming thesis. Students are already developing the transferable skills needed to cope with a fluctuating academic workforce when they are given the opportunity to do so. If a student wants to teach (not just to earn enough money to do pesky things like eat and pay rent) but because they genuinely want to become better at teaching then let them. If they wish to take on a leadership role by mentoring other students or working within the community to better explain the importance of their research or research in general let them. If your student wants to take on a student representative role within their university let them. It is these extracurricular activities that provide students with the transferable skills that will be needed for them to succeed. Yet there are countless stories of supervisors and schools that will forbid students from taking on mentoring roles or threaten to withdraw candidature from students because they are not in the lab 40 hours a week and producing two papers a year. This is the culture that needs to change within higher education, the revolution that needs to occur in research training. The recent reviews into research training and into the employability of students upon graduation all have one thing in common and that is a need for change in the culture of research training. All the plans to increase industry engagement, encourage transferable skills training, and even formalising teaching training will amount to nothing without the support of research training supervisors. In the future students will need to have the flexibility to take time away from their thesis to take part in these activities. Ideally they will also have supervisors that not only allow this extracurricular work but encourage and support this behaviour. Beyond that there will need to be an understanding that with the development of these extra skills will come an elongation of the completion times for these students. The future of research training in developing an innovation economy is going to fall behind without a cultural change amongst supervisory staff. No university based policy or national implementation plan will be able to empower students to have the freedom to undertake this extra work without the support of their supervisors. So if you want to know how to train your research student into the future speak to them about what career they want, what they need to learn to get there and to Peter Derbyshire empower them to do more than produce papers like research cannon fodder. CAPA President Peter Derbyshire is the President of CAPA president@capa.edu.au www.capa.edu.au www.facebook.com/CAPA.Au


Connect // Volume 10, no. 1

Semester 1, 2017

Improving job security through bargaining By Susan Kenna Industrial Officer

Even though at times it seems we do not get very far, the NTEU has been actively seeking improved salaries and conditions and better job security for casually employed academic staff for many years.

A major concern for NTEU members are ‘sham redundancies’ – paying staff a retrenchment package when the work they do is still there and someone does it. This does not meet the accepted legal definition of a ‘redundancy’ – a retrenchment should occur when the work is no longer required to be performed by anyone. NTEU is seeking to redress this situation and to improve processes around consultation, and for ‘choosing’ people to be retrenched in a ‘spill and fill’ situation.

Campaigns have underpinned support for legal entitlements via Enterprise Agreements and awards, and focussed around issues including: • Conversion to on-going work. • Creating on-going work from work previously undertaken by casuals (via Scholarly Teaching Fellow or similar positions). • Extending parental and other forms of leave to long-term casual workers. • Achieving commitments to domestic violence leave for casuals (most recently via a concerted effort in Victoria). • Achieving a separate payment for marking for sessional teachers. • Seeking a ‘discipline currency allowance’ via an Award Review application in the Fair Work Commission. • Seeking to increase superannuation contributions to the industry standard (for casual and currently ineligible, fixed term staff). The work does and must continue, including enforcing clauses won in previous bargaining rounds.

Job security is the key focus of bargaining in this round. At the time of writing, the four universities in Western Australia have been bargaining for almost a year; a lot of progress has been made at the University of Tasmania; bargaining has commenced in Victoria particularly at Deakin, is well under way at JCU in Queensland, is in progress at Griffith University and CQU and due to commence in other Queensland universities. Several negotiation meetings have been held at ANU in the ACT.



Go to fairgo.nteu.org.au to find out how we can help you transition to a full time job.

The NTEU approach to job security during this round of bargaining is therefore comprehensive. Aside from improving job security provisions for continuing staff, we are seeking a range of improvements for those in fixed term or casual work, dependent on the priorities of members at each enterprise. For example, securing or extending the “STF” measure to replace casual work, providing improved minimum hours for casual staff who are often juggling more than one job, conversion for long-term casual and fixed term staff, and right to renewal for fixed term staff, eligibility for paid parental leave, domestic violence leave and full superannuation payments for everyone. If Universities continue to rely on long-term casual and fixed term staff, they must recognise length of service and provide commensurate conditions of employment. Most importantly, they must convert this work into continuing work.

Key focus for Round 7 Bargaining

Are you happy with your

Universities spend millions of dollars each year on ‘workplace change’ – much of which is knee- jerk, unnecessary and repetitive. However, little seems to be learnt from the previous restructures, little thought is given to the workloads of those left behind, to careers, or to the ad hoc approach to filling work gaps with more insecure (casual or fixed term) jobs.

Our enterprise bargaining will only achieve improvements for currently ‘insecure’ workers if it is underpinned by a rigorous campaign on the ground. Members must get involved via the NTEU “Fair Go” campaign if we are to affect real workplace change. Check with your Branch about progress with bargaining and negotiations, or go to fairgo.org.au.

Some of Austalia’s best minds are working on



“Having to constantly apply for work is draining.”

Our best academics and researchers should be focused on their work instead of worrying about their jobs. Support a return to fair workplaces in higher education go to fairgo.nteu.org.au Go to fairgo.nteu.org.au to help make your workplace a fairer place for everyone.

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

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

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

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


SuperCasuals #MakethePledge

Domestic Violence Leave for all staff By Jo Taylor Member Organiser, Victorian Division

While all the other SuperCasuals campaigns focus on issues specific to casual employment at individual universities in Victoria, Make The Pledge, which began in the second half of 2016, has one goal – entitlement to paid leave for casual employees experiencing domestic and family violence. Every year in Australia over 400,000 people, the vast majority of them women, experience domestic and family violence, with around 62 per cent in paid employment. Domestic violence increases the risk of job loss, homelessness, and poverty, and those in insecure work are especially vulnerable. In higher education Enterprise Agreements, paid leave is available to all continuing and most fixed-term staff, thanks to dedicated campaigning and negotiating by NTEU staff and activists. However, in mid-2016 in Victoria, only Swinburne University guaranteed paid domestic violence leave (DVL) to casual staff specifically in the Agreement.

Rosie Batty's endorsement In support of our campaign, family and domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, said “employers have a responsibility, just as we all do, to make the changes we need to address what is still a tragic epidemic of violence that affects one in three women during their lifetime. Casual staff who experience family violence should be entitled to paid leave and all the arrangements which apply to non-casual staff.”


Connect // Volume 10, no. 1

Semester 1, 2017

The Pledge On 29 July 2016, vice-chancellors of universities in Victoria (except for Swinburne and Australian Catholic University, which is based in NSW) received a letter asking them to “Make the Pledge” to extend their current domestic and family violence leave provisions to all staff, including casuals and fixed term employees. The letter was signed by NTEU Victorian Division Secretary ,Colin Long, NTEU National President ,Jeannie Rea, and women’s caucus of the Victorian Casuals Council (VCC).

Bluestocking Week launch Bluestocking Week, run by NTEU and NUS, celebrates the achievements of women in higher education with a range of events, and the 2016 theme was “A Feminist Agenda”. We recognise that mobilising on the gendered dimension to insecure work is a crucial element to building union power more broadly, so the campaign to launch DVL was a good fit for Bluestocking Week. Our #MakethePledge Bluestocking Week campaign launch was held on 18 August at the NTEU National Office. We had two exceptional guest speakers who are experts in the field – family violence advocate and advisor, human rights academic and survivor, Liana Papoutsis, and Swinburne campaign leader and survivor, Michelle Brocker. Their stories of overcoming adversity were quite moving, and their calls to action inspiring. Jeannie Rea also gave an impassioned speech about the importance of this issue, and musician Justine Walsh captivated us with her beautiful voice. Despite the seriousness of the issue, the overwhelming mood on the night was optimistic.

Getting results

ACTU in the Fair Work Commission

Federation, La Trobe, Monash and Deakin universities acknowledged that their existing DVL policies apply to all staff, which was a fantastic win early in our campaign. In response to a subsequent enquiry, ACU also confirmed that existing DVL policies apply to all staff. Deakin’s Round 7 Enterprise Agreement, which is currently under negotiation, will specify that casuals are entitled to paid DVL. NTEU staff at Deakin were extensively involved in the development of policies and procedures on DVL, which is crucial to the practical implementation of the entitlement for those employees affected by domestic and family violence. We understand that leave entitlement for casuals will be specified in Round 7 Agreements at these other universities as well.

In November 2106, the ACTU presented a submission to the Fair Work Commission asking for all modern awards to include mandatory 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave. This would mean that all workplaces would be required to give employees access to paid leave, including casuals. The decision requires agreement from a majority of the three Commissioners on the Full Bench. One of the three Commissioners, Graeme Watson, announced his decision to reject the claim in late February, ahead of resigning from the FWC. As we go to publication, the other two have not announced their decisions.

Melbourne and VU told us that they will consider DVL on a caseby-case issue until bargaining, when they will be willing to enter into negotiations on the topic. Earlier this year we were told that one of these universities has since approved paid DVL to a casual employee, which is encouraging. RMIT’s Agreement does not exclude casuals, so we understand that DVL is also considered on a case-by-case basis, as for continuing staff.

Casualisation and A&TSI staff By Celeste Liddle Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Organiser

When it comes to casualisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff within the higher education sector, while we have seen growth in insecure work over the years, we are yet to reach the levels experienced by other university staff. The recent release of higher education employment data gives a massive clue as to why we are yet to see casualisation impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff at the same rates.

We are now waiting for the final outcome of the ACTU submission, which will inform our planning for 2017. supercasuals.org.au Above: The Bluestocking Week event launch in Melbourne. Opposite page: Family violence campaigner Liana Papoutsis speaks about her experiences, and the need for workplaces to improve support for staff. Credits: Toby Cotton

Simply put, we still only make up one per cent of the staffing complement at universities. Despite being nearly three per cent of the Australian population. There is a long way to go before universities achieve equality on campus. It’s hard to casualise a workforce you’re having such a hard time growing in the first place despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets being a part of Enterprise Agreements for over a decade now. Yet despite this, governmental data does show a steadily growing gap between actual number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff on campus and the full time equivalent. What this indicates is that while more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff might be being hired, they being engaged in more precarious part-time contract-based ways. Considering the recent commitment made at Universities Australia’s annual conference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student and staff engagement , it will be interesting to see whether this commitment will equate to achieving true employment parity on campus, or whether this parity will merely reflect the worsening conditions on campus for everyone else. As Bargaining Round 7 rolls on with university managements continuously being reluctant to include Indigenous clauses in Enterprise Agreements, early signs are not looking good.

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


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This is the tenth year of publication of Connect, as the masthead states, ‘the magazine for Australian casual and sessional university staff’. It is timely to look back through the pages of Connect and reflect upon what has happened to learn from our experiences over the past decade. Back in 2007, the Howard Coalition Government’s higher education experiment with WorkChoices, the Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRRs), introduced in 2005, was at its height and had removed all regulation on casual employment. Writing in Connect, Robyn May, Linda Gale and Iain Campbell explained, “Not able to directly regulate casual employment, the NTEU set out a bold plan to represent casual academic staff.”

connecting casuals

In December 2007, 74 Union delegates from around the country gathered in Melbourne for the first NTEU National Academic Casuals and Sessional Conference. The conference was the culmination of successive special workshops at the NTEU National Council, a NSW Division conference, and two unanimous National Council motions that same year.

By Jen Tsen Kwok Policy & Research Officer

NTEU publications dedicated to casual and sessional issues had been produced before, starting from a collaboration with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) on the Smart Casuals booklet in 2001. Connect itself began in the Victorian Division in early 2007. By September 2008 it had become a national magazine, building on issues explored by the Victorian and NSW Divisions. In 2012, Connect was formalised as a collaboration with CAPA.

One of the Council motions resolved to establish the National Academic Casuals Campaign and to draft a raft of bargaining claims. The other was a statement of principle which called for “an end to the exploitative use of casuals to coordinate and substantially teach subjects”.

Education, research and action Over the years Connect has chronicled the structure and organisation of campaigns, committees and conferences, published results of surveys and analyses of university data, reported on industrial activities and the making of Enterprise Agreements, promoted campaigns and reported on the actions and outcomes, and very importantly told the story of activists, often written by the activist.



at www.unicasu

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collective action

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Semester 1, 2017


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The rise of precarious work has seen successive generations of casual member activists who have sought to make changes either at their institution or at the national level. In this time, Connect has profiled 28 activists from 17 institutions. A Charter of Casual Academic Rights was developed in 2009. There was a National Academic Casuals Committee, which unfortunately lost momentum as a focus for action by 2012. The NTEU has run at least five Division-based and national conferences focused on casualisation, the last being the 2014 National Insecure Work Conference in Hobart. Over the past few years, Connect has unpacked the anatomy of numerous successful campaigns, from the University of Sydney Casuals Network’s yoga actions about employment ‘flexibility’, to the current Victorian Division SuperCasuals campaign, which has achieved significant Fair Work Commission victories at universities like Swinburne, La Trobe and Victoria. There has been a wide array of site-specific bargaining victories, delivering improved pay, conditions, as well as 800 Scholarly Teaching Fellowships (STFs) in Round 6 (see reports on pp. 3 & 20). And as Jo Taylor highlights, the NTEU is pushing for the extension of leave for dealing with domestic violence to casual staff in Victoria. In 2016, the national "Fair Go" campaign was launched focussing upon fixed term contracts, particularly in research work. There have been at least five staff surveys about casualisation, including one with a focus on online work experiences, and most recently, data from 2015 NTEU State of the Uni Survey was analysed in Connect. In 2016, the NTEU National Policy and Research Unit trawled Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) reports to better understand the distribution of insecure work by actual numbers rather than FTEs. The latest focus is upon the discipline and gendered dimensions, as well as the impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

Building connections and awareness Little can be achieved from any single effort, and Connect has benefited from sharing and building relationships with numerous groups and organisations independent of the NTEU. These have included CASA (A home online for casual, adjunct, sessional staff and their allies in Australian higher education), the Research Whisperer, the Casual Academic Collective, and a whole host of bloggers, writers and academics. Internationally, we have reached out to publicity and awareness campaigns undertaken by sister unions, like the Canadian

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Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Fair Employment Week, the UK University and Colleges Union (UCU) Stamp Out Casual Contracts, and the Tertiary Education Union ongoing campaigns against casual contracts in New Zealand. We have learned from groups that include Malini Cadambi from the Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU), Jeffrey Keefer at Adjunctchat, and Joe Berry’s Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL) and the New Faculty Majority (NFM). These connections have helped us frame our own public campaigns in Australia, where the NTEU has been the only professional body to consistently expose the escalation of insecure work in higher education. Year after year, the NTEU has provided evidence to public inquiries, including the 2012 ACTU National Inquiry into Insecure Work (Howe Inquiry), the Senate Committee Review of the Fair Work Amendment (Tackling Job Insecurity) Bill 2012, and the Victorian Labour Hire and Insecure Work Inquiry in 2015. Furthermore, the NTEU has broadened public awareness by sponsoring screenings of the US documentary Ivory Tower around the country, and through social media with the #SecureWork tweetup in 2015 and #IStandWithCasuals in early 2016.

Universities persist with casualisation The persistence of these campaigns is certainly a symbol of the inadequate response of the sector; in particular senior university leaders who have failed to acknowledge, let alone contribute genuine solutions. The NTEU 2016 analysis The Rising Tide of Insecure Employment, found that since 2004 insecure employment has dramatically risen and hovers above 63 per cent. For academic employment, between 2004 and 2014, less than 1 per cent of new jobs during this period were tenured ‘teaching and research’ positions. For the NTEU and its allies, these facts are an invitation to look at casualisation as a structural effect of the erosion of employment conditions throughout the sector. While we all might hope Connect will not be around in ten years, change will depend on our campaigns reaching another level. Not just through the creativity of new activists and new alliances, but through the capacity to force long-term change to the very priorities university managements bring to workforce planning. The rebooted national secure work campaign 2017-20 provides a frame for our ongoing work (see report p. 8). www.unicasual.org.au/connect

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


By Jeannie Rea National President

It's time for a

FAIR GO for precariously employed staff

NTEU Job Security in Australian Universities Campaign 2017–20

• Four out of five teaching-only staff are on casual contracts. • Four out of five research-only staff are on fixed term contracts. • Less than one per cent of new university jobs since 2005 are ongoing or tenured teaching and research positions. • At least half of university teaching is done by casually employed academics. • Only two out of ten newly appointed staff are employed on a permanent basis, or three out of ten on a FTE basis. • Two thirds of the total number of staff in universities are employed insecurely. For over twenty years the NTEU has been seeking to contain and reverse the accelerating trend towards job insecurity in higher education, principally through negotiating and then campaigning to enforce clauses in our Enterprise Agreements. Frankly, we have not succeeded as the proportion of staff employed casually or on short term contracts continues to increase relative to ongoing positions.

Jobs go but work continues Additionally, university staff in ‘ongoing’ positions are constantly facing rounds of contrived restructures resulting in retrenchments and are no longer convinced that ‘ongoing’ means much at all. Sham redundancies are a shameful feature of contemporary university workforce management. The work does not disappear, but is redistributed to other staff already struggling to manage their workloads. Unpaid and unrecognised extra hours is now a feature of ongoing positions as well as for fixed term and casualised staff. When a position becomes vacant through resignation or retirement it is likely to be casualised, contracted or outsourced. However, the situation would be worse still if the NTEU had not put curbs on casualisation and fixed term contracts through industrial awards and Enterprise Agreements. As well as seeking to construct new more secure positions (such as the Scholarly Teaching Fellows in the last bargaining round), mechanisms for conversion have been a feature of our industrial strategy. Enforcement though has been patchy and most successful when pursued collectively rather than individual cases. Clearly we have to do more – more comprehensively and more cohesively.

National coordination This February, the NTEU National Executive determined that the Union must bring together our industrial, public advocacy and campaigning work for secure jobs into a coherent medium-term national campaign, that while supporting and encouraging Branch and Division initiatives, recognises that national coordination is essential for making and measuring progress towards achieving the aim of more permanent jobs especially for fixed term and casual staff.


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f Out o work


ked r o w ver


Sham redundancies place pressure on our workplaces and are a huge waste of money. They put people out of work, reduce secure employment and create heavier workloads for remaining staff.

Spill and fill creates unnecessary anxiety and places staff under pressure. You should be focused on your job, not constantly re-applying for it!

Sham redundancies are inefficient and unfair. Help us stop the rot, visit fairgo.nteu.org.au

Spill and fills are inefficient and unfair. Help us stop the rot, visit fairgo.nteu.org.au

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

Consequently, the National Executive endorsed the NTEU Job Security in Australian Universities Campaign 2017-20 which will be further developed through the National Campaign Coordinating Committee of the National Officers and Division Secretaries.

Stop the rot The goal is to stop the decline, and increase the proportion, of ongoing positions in higher education through industrial instruments and supported by public advocacy and action. The objectives of the campaign are to win more permanent jobs through Round 7 enterprise bargaining; improve other conditions of fixed term and casual staff; enforce new and existing provisions; and to increase Union density.

Secure jobs and no sham redundancies The two core strategies are industrial enforcement of existing Agreement provisions, and improving these through Round 7 bargaining. The priority in this bargaining round is job security with mandatory claims on: extending the STF provisions and/or establishing the right to conversion for long term casual staff; right to renewal for fixed term contract staff and conversion for long term contractors; and addressing sham redundancies through stopping retrenchment unless the “work performed in the position is no longer required to be done by anyone”.

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

Enforcement Enforcement of existing provisions must be a focus as many Agreements already have these types of clauses. We must get better at forcing management to implement the Agreements and taking action when they refuse. This is shaping up as a very tough bargaining round with managements, in many places, seeking to diminish existing job security clauses. The opportunity to mobilise members and attract new members around job security is largely untapped in many Branches. The intent of the new campaign plan is to better support Branches achieve this outcome.

Government must act on casualisation The third strategy is to promote sectoral and public debate on the extent and impact of insecure work in higher education. It also aims to mobilise the university community and broader public in support of our bargaining and enforcement campaigns. Higher education is the third most casualised ‘industry’ and yet reliance upon our work in teaching, research and community engagement has never been greater. University managements and governments need to be aware of public concern and heed the consequences of running down university staffing. fairgo.nteu.org.au

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


Why I Stand with Casuals By Theresa Petray James Cook University

I stand with university casuals because my solidarity isn’t just for my lucky colleagues who managed to score ongoing positions. And it is about luck, and being in the right place at the right time, because I know lots of excellent academics who are still stuck in casual positions. I stand with uni casuals whether they prefer casual work or are seeking ongoing employment. Good working conditions, enough notice to prepare subjects, and proper recognition for hard work are important for everyone in the higher education sector. I stand with uni casuals whether they are doing a few tutorials during a PhD to get teaching work, or have finished their qualifications and still find themselves in casual work. And I am seeing more and more of the latter group. I stand with uni casuals whether they are teaching staff, research staff, or some combination of the two. Whether preparing a subject outline or preparing an ethics application, job security matters. I stand with uni casuals because, before I got lucky and landed an ongoing position, I was a uni casual. My teaching load was double that of my permanent colleagues. I was teaching across five discipline areas. When I had some intense abdominal pains, I was too busy teaching to make a medical appointment. A few days later I had my appendix removed, and ‘sick leave’ meant just not getting paid for those lectures and tutorials I missed. Sick leave, domestic violence leave, cultural leave – these are hard-won rights that should be accessible to every one of my colleagues, not just those with ongoing contracts. 1512_NTEU_Casuals_Poster_1.pdf



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I stand with uni casuals because my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues are increasingly becoming casualised. The need for Indigenous knowledge and perspectives inside our university is not a short-term thing. We


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need permanent positions for our colleagues to reflect the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. I stand with uni casuals because women’s work is disproportionately insecure work. And because uni casuals don’t get access to parental leave entitlements – another issue that disproportionately affects women. I stand with uni casuals because I can’t do my work without their work. Even in a system that makes it difficult for casuals, there are things that I can do to stand with my casual staff. I can give them plenty of notice of their employment, and follow up with HR if the contracts are slow to appear. I can give my staff input into assignment topics and research questions. I can remind my students that their casual tutors are paid only a few hours a week and won’t respond to emails at 10pm. I stand with uni casuals by inviting my casual staff to join the Union. The Union is its members, and the more casual staff who join, get active, and participate in Branch committees, the more we can do for uni casuals. The more casual staff who talk to ongoing staff about these issues, the better we can stand together. Theresa Petray got lucky and is now a senior lecturer in sociology & anthropology at James Cook University. www.unicasual.org.au/istandwithcasuals




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Sociology Academics stand with casuals By Kristin Natalier Flinders University

In 2016, The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) developed a Working Document detailing practical responses to the increasingly widespread, destructive and exploitative use of contingent labour in academia. The process had its roots in TASA’s concern that as sociologists, many of us are well versed in changing employment patterns, but our conceptual knowledge is not always matched by our awareness of what can be done to resist the effects of such patterns.

those who are formally or informally involved in recruiting, employing, managing, and supporting contingent academic staff.

TASA‘s remit includes facilitating the teaching of sociology and sociological research, and enhancing the professional development of our members; contingent labour undermines the possibility and individual, disciplinary and social benefits of these activities.

In semester 1, 2016, I focused on building community by ensuring that all members of my teaching team (contingent and continuing) knew each other, and had opportunities to share strategies and experiences.

Higher education’s reliance on contingent labour reflects and responds to structural, institutional and ideological logics. The most effective responses to contingent labour come from challenging, dismantling and replacing these forces. This is necessary as a matter of social justice, as a response to the suffering and potentially reduced professional and life chances of colleagues, and in order to protect the rigour, independence and vibrancy of sociology and universities more generally. The social and disciplinary consequences of contingent labour make this a relevant issue across institutional positions. The Working Document does not set out structural solutions to the problem of contingent labour (there are no instructions for effecting revolution). It has a more modest aim: to gather together a set of practical strategies that are immediately available and can limit the material and symbolic impacts of contingent labour on colleagues. These are some first steps to building and buttressing sustainable academic practice. I encourage you to read the full document (see link at end of article). Please share it with colleagues in academia, particularly

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

I also encourage you to make or advocate for change in how you and your institution treats contingent academic staff. The list of practices listed in the Working Document is long (but not exhaustive). I – like many people – have been doing some as a matter of course; others are well outside my control. So I was inspired by the writers at the CASA [Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education] website to commit to changing just one thing to support contingent academics. I am adding a new thing each semester:

In the second half of 2016 I explicitly told casual RAs to claim the time they spent preparing for and attending project meetings, and followed up with them when the claims didn’t come through. I saw this as a way of actually and symbolically valuing how their time and expertise contributed to the invisible labour of meetings. In this first semester of 2017 I am providing ongoing informal and formal feedback on performance, in a form that teaching team members can use as evidence in job applications. These are small steps – not a substitute for political and industrial action – but there is human and political value in our mundane and everyday acts of respect and resistance. Kristin Natalier is an Associate Professor at Flinders University. Working Document is available at: www.tasa.org.au/tasa-working-document-responsescontingent-labour-academia/ I want to acknowledge the work of the Working Group members who worked with me to research, write and edit the document: Erika Altman, Tom Barnes, Suzanne Egan, Christine Malatzky, Christian Mauri, Dan Woodman.

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@nteu.org.au

www.aur.org.au read online at www.unicasual.org.au



cuts &

casualisation undermining

academia discipline by discipline NTEU proposes investigation

The scenario A professor retires at the end of a long and distinguished career, but she is not replaced by the promotion of one of her colleagues, nor an appointment from outside. Instead her teaching is casualised. A post doc is appointed part-time to add to her ARC project team, while she continues to lead the project in an unpaid adjunct position until its completion. She also agrees to supervise her current doctoral candidates to completion on casual rates. With her departure there is only one professor left in the discipline group and he too is looking to leave soon. Enrolments are solid, but constant restructuring of the degree program means that the discipline needs consistent advocacy to maintain the major, and frankly the undergraduate program is cross subsidised by the high fee post graduate coursework program, which is fully taught by casually employed staff. And there is pressure to put it all online, while still recruiting onshore international students. There are several level B lecturers who cannot break through to level C because they cannot get the ‘research points’. Despite promotion criteria supposedly valuing teaching and engagement, strong teaching candidates are not really encouraged. The only associate professor does no teaching, but takes much of the supervision load and brings in funds through consultancies that do not add to the research profile. In reality most of the actual teaching is done by casually employed staff, several of whom are women who have been teaching in the program for over five years. This latter group have given up on ever getting an academic job and instead focus on research and writing in their own time, glad they do not need a laboratory or equipment to undertake their research. The university though keenly counts their research outcomes. The younger women and men wonder if they should hang around much longer or just move out of higher education all together, as they defer life decisions like having children. Another review has just been announced and the discipline has been named on a list of those to be cut altogether. The university is arguing that it is not sustainable. Does any of this sound familiar? I did make up this scenario, but it is firmly grounded in my experience and that of the many members who are talking about the crisis we are facing.

By Jeannie Rea National President

Not only are the next generation of academics not getting decent jobs, but universities are reliant upon experienced casual academics to take on unit coordination, course writing and graduate supervision because there are not enough staff to do these critical jobs. However, there are limits to how much of academic workloads can be casualised or short term contracted before there is an impact upon the quality and sustainability of teaching, research and engagement.

Focus on impact of casualisation While we have rightly focussed upon the impact of casualisation on casualised staff, and on the resulting workload of those in more secure positions, what we have not investigated, in any rigorous way, is the impact upon disciplines and courses, including those leading to professional accreditation and licenses to practice. Despite sector growth (of 29,000 staff over the decade), the academic profession is scrambling for survival across many disciplines and courses of study. In some cases it is becoming unmanageable to: • Maintain teaching quality and academic standards. • Undertake research and publish. • Engage in disciplinary scholarship and relationships. • Collaborate with industry and community. • Undertake public intellectual responsibilities, and • Train and mentor the next generation.


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Taylorisation of academic work through carving up academic activity is well advanced, through:

are the majority of university employees by FTE let alone actual numbers.

• Shifting work to the ‘third sector’ of higher degree qualified higher education professionals specialising in education development support.

Barriers to women’s progress to senior positions have been extensively investigated and there are few new surprises as was reinforced by the recent final report Women, Careers and Universities: Where to from here? by Emeritus Professor Glenda Strachan and her colleagues. This ARC funded research which analysed 23,000 survey responses from across Australian universities in 2011, importantly included general and professional staff and academics on insecure employment contracts.

• Adjusting behaviour and work to accommodate workload models that allocate time or points to specified and quantified pieces of activity. • Research regimes like the ERA and university policies that herd academics into particular work groups to maximise output but not necessarily contributions to scholarship or creation of new knowledge, and

The Women, Careers and Universities report also found that fixed term employment amongst research-only staff was rife, particularly at 84 per cent in the STEM fields, with women slightly more likely to be on such contracts. Sharon Bell and Lyn Yates investigated why women still have not got ahead despite decades of affirmative action policies and practices. They found that the same old sexist attitudes and behaviours explained the little progress. However, in their Women in Science Research Report, they reported that the increased proportion of casual and fixed term positions was further adversely impacting upon any advances for women.

• Online course delivery that is organised into discrete jobs for content originators, designers, coaches, assessors – and marketers. However, whilst this taylorisation undermines the academic profession, the employment mode is the principal factor. The teaching and research academic is steadily declining in Australian universities, in favour of casual teaching and short term contract research.

Latest data

Employment by field of study and AOU

The 2015 Commonwealth Department of Education and Training (DET) data released in late December 2016 confirms that precarious work continues to increase across university employment. Employment in higher education continues to increase; by 2.2 per cent between 2015 and 2016. However, over 40 per cent of the full time equivalent (FTE) increase was in casual FTEs, only one third in fulltime positions and one quarter were fractional positions. Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Academic Teaching and Research Staff Most significantly the proportion of teaching and research (T&R) Academic Organisational Units by Broad Field of Study Actual Casuals and Limited Term by Gender 2015 positions continues to decline.

There are gender differences in the proportions of fixed term and casual employment across the different fields of studies and then into the different disciplines. And as Bell and Yates hinted at in their 2015 report, we need to expose these and investigate what that means for women and men studying and working in different areas – and what it means for the discipline, for research and the professions. The NTEU is well placed to coordinate disciplinary and field of study investigation into the consequences of the running down of the academic profession through separating out teaching and research from the once normal mode of teaching/research positions.


Because insecure employment has gendered inequity characteristics, the NTEU is interrogating this latest DET data into broad field of study by gender and employment mode amongst those classified as teaching and research (not RO). 1622













1000 500


















Actual Casual



Limited Term





(Note: include Teaching Only but excludes Research Only staff)

0 M





Info Tech





Engineer Architecture Agriculture & Bldg & Enviro










Education Managemnt Society & Comm & Culture

Creative Arts


The trend data is also revealing. Since 2002 the numbers of women in tenurial positions in Management and Commerce has increased by 45 per cent, but casuals by 80 per cent for women and 40 per cent for men. This is a growth area mainly due to international student enrolments. In Society and Culture where there are fewer men in tenurial jobs, but more in fixed term and a 70 per cent increase in women in casualised jobs and 60 per cent for men.

Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Academic Teaching and Research Staff Academic Organisational Units by Broad Field of Study Actual Casuals and Limited Term by Gender 2015 (Note: include Teaching Only but excludes Research Only staff)

Gender and casual employment Casual employment in universities is also gendered, demonstrated by the DET data, but revealed further by the Workplace Gender Equity Agency (WGEA) data on staffing numbers rather than collapsed into FTE calculations. According to WGEA in 2015, Australian universities employed a total of about 202,000 employees of which about 85,000 were employed on a casual basis. (Each ‘FTE casual’ is made up of 4.2 actual persons). NTEU Policy and Research Unit analysis has found that in the female dominated category, “professional non-management”, men are more likely to be in full time ongoing positions and women in casual positions. This is also reflected in fixed term contract employment. And women still hold under one third of management and senior level positions even where women

The NTEU recently purchased (yes, you have to pay!) academic employment data by Academic Organisational Unit (AOU), which is enabling a further and very revealing breakdown within the fields of study. However, we can find out more at an institutional level. The data on employment is all there. So far we have spoken with a few disciplinary associations and are now putting the call out to groups of members who may be interested in pursuing this further. Contact jrea@nteu.org.au. If we can develop a narrative that tells the story of how insecure work has ongoing adverse consequences not only for those in these precarious positions, but also for the academic disciplines and for professional qualifications, we will find new allies amongst professional associations and the broader community. We will have evidence of the adverse impacts of insecure employment on the quality of teaching, research and engagement. Much of this article was presented in a paper “The impacts of prevalence of insecure employment on women’s participation in the discipline and the academy”, by the author at the AIRAANZ 2017 conference in February in Canberra.

read online at www.unicasual.org.au



power & democracy in an age of casualisation

By Dustin Halse Campaigns Officer, Victorian Division

Connect marks ten years with this edition – more an anniversary than a celebration – as during this period the march of job insecurity has only accelerated. Indeed when examining the previous ten years it becomes apparent that much still needs to be done to win secure jobs that NTEU members can count on. It is not an exaggeration to state that the next decade will be the most crucial for the Union’s existence. In order to win secure jobs we must candidly assess the current state of play in the tertiary education sector and question whether the rise of casualiation can be stopped. What is certain is that such a generational challenge can only be pursued through expanding democracy within our union in order to build the requisite industrial power to transform our workplaces.

The rise of casualisation The statistics are alarming. Nine out of every ten academic jobs created in the tertiary education sector over the last decade have been casual or part time. Casuals now form the largest cohort of workers in the tertiary education sector. Casuals are disproportionately likely to be younger and are more likely to be women. Casuals are also spending longer periods of time in this mode of employment than ever before; and many have never known job security. But how has the sector become so precarious for so many? The reasons behind the growth in casualisation in the tertiary education sector over the previous 15 years are many and varied. Tertiary education is now a global commodity and demand has increased significantly in line with the rise of the Asian middle class. Tertiary education is now one of Australia’s primary export earners and it is fair to say that governments of all persuasions together with local university chancelleries have treated tertiary education as a cash cow. To meet the growing demand Australian universities have reoriented their course programs and increased the number of university places offered to international students. Universities are also striving to keep pace with international competitors that boast multi-billion dollar endowments by contending that labour costs are prohibitive to the flexibility required to be competitive in the education market place. In addition, the deregulation of the number of undergraduate university places offered has led to an explosion of domestic student enrolments since 2010. University managements have taken this policy setting as a license to again expand ‘workplace


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flexibility’. Put simply, in a globally competitive market place and without adequate Commonwealth Government funding and secure work regulatory frameworks, the economic risks and burdens of tertiary education have been transferred to insecure casual staff and students.

Is there hope? Some might hold the position that the prospect of winning any campaign to improve job security in our current political and economic climate is so remote that such an endeavour should be abandoned. Through function many have seemingly adopted this approach and resolved instead to protect the solid conditions that have hitherto been won by the Union over generations. They rightly note that the Fair Work Act and local Enterprise Agreements provide few instruments and protections through which to organise and empower casual workers. Therefore the focus shifts to servicing ‘islands’ of current secure fee paying ‘clientele’ or ‘customers’. Such debate is very common within unions. And yet, if the NTEU is intent on building industrial power then the servicing methodology described above is fundamentally flawed. No one group of employees can remain an island of job security and good wages in a sea of declining working standards and conditions. The rise of casualisation is an attack on all university staff and an attack on the traditional notion of academic tenure. As enrolments increase the proportion of secure work will continue to decline and the island will be submerged. By this point it will be too late to do anything. In many respects the NTEU has no option but to radically and collectively combat insecure work. And it is clear that where this is occurring we see the hope of a more secure future for casuals. One recent campaign presents a guiding example of how casual NTEU members can build industrial power and win secure jobs. After years of casual member-led activism at Swinburne University, the Union secured a right that empowers casual academic staff to apply for conversion to ongoing work. At the end of 2016, the Union collectively enforced this right and has secured (at the time of writing) the work of nearly 40 casual NTEU members. It may seem small but the campaign secured a bona fide right as opposed to a fixed number of conversions or an aspirational target. It is a clear demonstration that industrial power can be collectively established by local and democratic casual activism. Casual NTEU members can also look to other unions for inspiration on how to win secure jobs. In this edition of Connect, Amy Fitzgerald and the team from the Young Workers Centre (YWC) describe how casual activists in Victoria are building

industrial power across a number of industries that are impacted by insecure work (see p. 18). The story of the formation of the YWC is very similar to the development of Supercasuals in Victoria. In fact when we view the industrial landscape we see a whole host of unions such as the National Union of Workers organising in novel and democratic ways with casual activists to win secure work.

Power through collective democracy Alexis de Tocqueville observed that in democratic communities "knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all others". How we can collectively combine to confront casualisation in the tertiary education sector is the Union’s next generational challenge. The collective approach to organising and building workplace power is premised upon the existence of a truly representative democracy within a union. This is the approach which has been taken in the Victorian Division by the SuperCasuals team – we attempt to empower casual members to lead the change they wish to see at their universities, while also calling upon Branch leaders and those in secure work for support through solidarity actions. Our Union takes great pride in its democratic principles and certainly it is fair to say that in proportional terms we have more elected positions than just about any other union in the country (open to all NTEU members). We are also committed at a national level to fighting the scourge of job insecurity. The new national ‘Fair Go’ campaign (see report p. 8) and a host of new casual work policies are in the process of being enacted. Nevertheless, casual members are still underrepresented on local Branch Committees and National and Division Councils. If we intend to build industrial power to win secure jobs we must collectively ensure that the voice of casual members is heard through our democratic structures. I look forward to celebrating the success of the NTEU’s casual member-led campaigns in the next anniversary edition of Connect. In the interim, if you are interested in finding out how to get involved in your local Branch Committee or becoming a casual member delegate, get in touch with us at supercasuals@nteu.org.au – now is the time, this is your Union! Above: NTEU members protesting the Turnbull Government’s antiunion, anti-worker laws as well as its support for the decision to cut penalty rates. Credit: Toby Cotton

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


Unsettled lives? Academic precarity, gender & personal life By Lara McKenzie University of Western Australia

It is common to hear about academics’ personal lives in terms of a "lack". We know, for instance, that academics have fewer children, marry less, and work longer hours than those in other ‘professions’ (Mason et al. 2013; NTEU 2015). The growing population of precariously employed academics is understood as especially afflicted, with couples and families needing to move or separate for work, and living with low, irregular pay and limited or no leave. These issues disproportionately impact women, and particularly young women, as this group is overrepresented in precarious academia (May et al. 2013). In 2015, interested to explore the intersection of precarity, gender, and personal life, I began an interview-based study of ‘aspiring academics’ in Australia. These aspiring academics were generally working at universities, in casual or fixed-term (precarious) roles, and seeking more secure academic research and/or teaching positions. To date, I have carried out 17 interviews in Perth and Adelaide, mostly with those from the humanities and social sciences. Twelve were women and five were men, and they were mainly in their 20s and 30s (reflecting the aforementioned tendency for precarious academics to be young and female). Most had finished their PhDs a few years ago. Here, I discuss some of my interviewees’ accounts, using pseudonyms (for a more lengthy discussion, see McKenzie 2017). The women and men I spoke with used words like ‘unstable’ to describe their current employment, career prospects, financial situation, the location of their work, and their relationships with others. Katie, for example, drew direct links between her academic career prospects and personal life. She was in her late 20s and had finished her PhD a few years ago. Since then, she had undertaken casual teaching, research, and administrative work at her university. We spoke about the financial implications of her casual employment, and she said: The money is a big thing… I’d like to be able to afford to move out of shared housing. I’d like to be able to afford to have children before I’m 70, buy a house, all that very white-picket fence kind of stuff. I feel like I didn’t realise that I was basically signing up for [pauses]… You think this is what happens when you go into the creative arts. It’s like, “No, I did a sensible thing! I did lots of university! I was going to become a teacher!” The inability to buy a home, to settle in one place, have children, or to manage mortgage repayments were common themes in people’s accounts. A particular concern of women was the impact that their financial situation had on their ability to start a family. Many women noted that they and their partners ‘would love to have kids’, but were unable to afford it. One woman, Julie, who after years of precarious employment had recently been hired as a lecturer, complained that moving her husband and child with her had been received very negatively by family, friends, and her husband. The alternative, which she had raised with him, was to divorce and take the child with her. The search for stable academic employment was thus understood to restrict personal relations. This is not surprising: stories such as Katie’s and Julie’s are common and often talked about, and this is also the starting point of great deal of research on academic employment. However, alongside this was an understanding that ‘unsettled’ academic lives were supported by and fostered by personal relationships. This is an area that has yet to receive much attention. Those I interviewed, and particularly the women, often mentioned receiving financial support from family members or partners,


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enabling them to pay their rent or mortgage and to continue their academic job search. Interviewees also conceived of their partners as sources of emotional support. For instance, Perry was in his early 30s, and had finished his PhD a few years ago. Since then, he had been employed in casual or part-time, fixed-term academic positions. Perry spoke about how, to counter his sense that his life was ‘unsettled’, he cultivated a collection of portable plants and objects that he carried from rental home to rental home. He referred to his long-term girlfriend as a much needed source of stability. When I asked him whether he would move elsewhere for academic work, he told me yes, as his partner also wanted to live elsewhere. He continued: Last year I applied for a heap of jobs… we said we’ll talk about whether or not I would take it [later]... But there’ll be points where I think we’d either have to do a bit of a long-distance thing for a while, which we did for a year anyway, so it’s not a big issue. But it’s not really ideal. Interestingly, men appeared much more likely to propose longdistance relationships as an alternative to the potential separation mentioned by Julie. Indeed, women often spoke of their partners as tying them to their current residences, especially if they had children. Janine, for instance, was in her early 30s and had finished her PhD a few years ago. She had had a baby with her partner shortly after completing her thesis. Janine told me that her partner was very ‘bound’ to their home city, which prevented her from seeking work elsewhere. She added that he had supported her for years during her PhD. As such, she had found it necessary to find work outside of academia immediately after submitting her thesis. Towards the end of our conversation, she spoke about how this impacted her academic aspirations: It’s really challenging, not just working, but having a baby as well. Because time is really limited and I’m trying to write, to manage a household, to look after my son, to spend time with my family, and to work. And I’m doing some quite serious work here as well, so it’s not just like I come in and do my work from nine to five. So it’s quite challenging once you kind of throw a family in to the mix. For women like Janine, having a family or partner while seeking an academic career was experienced as both productive (enabling her to complete her PhD) and restrictive (preventing her from moving). Here, people’s experiences were clearly gendered. Women more often discussed receiving financial support from their families or (generally) different-sex partners, while men spoke largely of emotional support.

Interviewees also spoke about their friendships with precariously employed colleagues. Several would often meet up in groups, to collectively complain about their working conditions and employment prospects. It was not uncommon for people to visit such colleagues at odd hours, to complain and cry. Their precarious careers appeared to foster such relationships. Indeed, as one person put it, when these friends did get work, ‘you would never see them again’. Those I interviewed spoke at length about the impact that precarious work had on their personal lives. Issues raised included the need to relocate to find work as well as financial difficulties, which prevented people from buying or renting a house and having children. Yet interviewees also identified their partners, friends, and families as playing supportive roles, both emotionally and financially. With ongoing, full-time academic employment becoming less and less common, there has been a growing interest in how career precarity is experienced by aspiring academics. Much of this research focuses on how personal relationships are unsettled by such circumstances, yet it is important to also consider how such relations are fostered by and even support precarious working arrangements. In short, we need to acknowledge that current, unequal relations within academia are facilitated in part by our personal lives: unequally, and in particular, gendered ways. This article is an extended version of a piece originally published by The Australian Sociological Association’s Magazine, Nexus. nexus.tasa.org.au/unsettled-lives-the-personal-relations-ofprecarious-academics/

References Mason, M A, Wolfinger, N H & Goulden, M (2013). Do babies matter? Gender and family in the ivory tower, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. May, R, Strachan, G & Peetz, D (2013). Workforce development and renewal in Australian universities and the management of casual academic staff, Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice 10(3): 1-24. McKenzie, L (2017). A precarious passion: Gendered and age-based insecurity among aspiring academics in Australia, in Being an early career feminist academic: Global perspectives, experiences, and challenges, Thwaites, R & Pressland, A (Eds), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 31-49. National Tertiary Education Union (2015). State of the uni survey, Report no. 1: Overview report, South Melbourne: NTEU.

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


How to improve conditions for

young workers

It was early August when Kashmir first decided to do something about a problem she’d been having at Grill’d. She’d been working at the franchise for months, and hadn’t received any formal training since her first few shifts, but was still being paid as a trainee. She knew that nearly all of her co-workers were in the same boat – and she was sick of it. But how does a young worker, with no previous knowledge of activism or the union movement, learn the skills to make change in their workplace? Kashmir first called the Young Workers Centre legal team on August 4. By early September, she’d worked with the legal team to send a letter of demand to Grill’d. By the end of November, Kashmir was the face of a campaign which would go on to gain nearly 5,000 signatures on a petition, star on A Current Affair – and ultimately see Grill’d negotiate to set a hard 18 month upper limit on the completion of traineeships, and see all workers who were employed as traineeships fast-tracked to their end of their courses. “The Grill’d campaign was fantastic” Young Workers Centre coordinator Keelia Fitzpatrick said “because it started with one young worker recognising that she deserved better, and evolved into hundreds of current and former Grill’d workers sharing their stories and standing together to demand that Grill’d do better.” While the Young Workers Centre is facilitated by twelve young staff members – nearly all who are under the age of 30 – Fitzpatrick emphasises that all campaigns are run from the ground up.

By Amy Fitzgerald Young Workers Centre

“The Young Workers Centre organisers help young people run their own campaigns. They share knowledge and help develop resources and create networks – but at the end of the day, every single campaign the Young Workers Centre is involved in is run by the workers who are affected by it”.


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Semester 1, 2017

Store blitzes – where teams of young workers visit popular shopping, dining, and retail areas to talk to other young people about common workplace issues – were planned as part of the Grill’d campaign, but it turns out they weren’t needed. “From the second Kashmir’s petition was launched, current and former Grill’d workers were contacting us in droves to tell their stories. What was overwhelmingly apparent was that Kashmir’s issues were not isolated – and neither was her desire to do something about it.” Fitzpatrick said. Young workers are often portrayed as not being interested in unionism and not understanding the benefits of collective action – but the Young Workers Centre proves otherwise. “Time and time again – from Grill’d to Honey Birdette – we’re finding that when armed with the right resources and the right support, young people are ready, willing, and able to fight for their rights at work.” One of the most difficult issues the team confront when working with young workers is undoubtedly the high levels of casualisation and instability surrounding jobs that young people traditionally find themselves in.

These school visits focus on equipping young people with the knowledge and skills needed to identify and resolve problems at work. “We know that peer to peer organising is one of the most effective ways of reaching people – that’s why we were so focused on making sure this program was delivered by young people to young people” Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Luke Hilakari, who developed the concept for the Young Workers Centre, said. Outreach organiser Edie Shepherd vouches for the effectiveness of peer-to-peer organising. As a result of a visit to North-East Victoria as part of a “Regional Roadshow”, Shepherd has worked closely with a group of young people from Albury-Wodonga who are developing their own Young Workers Centre outpost in the region. “The young people who I’m working with in Albury-Wodonga got in touch with us through the local Trades Hall” Shepherd said. “Now, we’re working with them to build the skills they need to become leaders in their workplaces and schools and help other young people.”

“Young people can be hesitant to come forward when something isn’t right at work because they are so often told that these first jobs aren’t “real” work, or they don’t expect to be working in hospitality, retail, or fast food for long. What we’re trying to get across to young people is that they deserve to be treated with respect at work – wherever work might be” Fitzpatrick said.

Undoubtedly, the campaigns run through the Young Workers Centre are addressing casual worker exploitation. But the changes that young people make in their own workplaces aren’t the only benefit to the union movement: through campaigns and education, young workers are gaining a sense of their value as workers, and experiences of organising in union that will last a lifetime. A new generation of activists is growing up.

That’s where the outreach program comes in.


Starting from early 2015, young workers have visited schools right around Victoria – including trips to regional centres such as Ballarat and Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga – to deliver workers’ rights education to secondary school students.

Image courtesy Young Workers Centre

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


Scholarly Teaching Fellows: The experience so far By James Goodman University of Technology, Sydney

A new Project has commenced, funded by the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT), to investigate the ‘Scholarly Teaching Fellows’ initiative. Since 1999, there has been a rapid rise in both casual teaching and contract research in the university sector. Within constraints imposed by funding arrangements between universities and the Australian government, successive rounds of enterprise bargaining have seen NTEU branches and university managements negotiate a range of approaches to casualisation: limiting casual hours, raising the cost of casual employment, creating caps on casualisation rates, and proposing new entry-level positions. The Union’s objective in the most recent completed round of enterprise bargaining was to reduce casualisation across the sector by twenty per cent. Agreement clauses were sought for the introduction of a ‘Scholarly Teaching Fellow’ (STF) employment category, whereby existing casual staff could be engaged on continuing teachingfocused contracts. After three years they could apply for promotion into a research-and-teaching role. From January this year a group of researchers from UTS, Griffith, UNSW and the University of Canberra have been investigating the STF initiative. We are funded by the OLT for a two year project aiming to develop a sector-wide consensus on the development of the STF roles. Two main agendas have emerged – insecurity and quality. Casual teachers are contracted to specified hours semester-bysemester, and hence cannot be accurately categorised as ‘casual’ employees. Nor are they fixed-term, as in practice most work for several years as on-going employees but without contract security. Substituting casual teaching roles with STFs aims to go some way to overcoming this mis-recognition of the ongoing nature of insecure academic teaching work. In practice, though, it appears so far that the new positions do not necessarily reduce aggregate casualisation (as we are in an expanding sector), begging the question of complementary measures. The STF category was also designed to speak to quality issues, by offering casual teaching staff the opportunity for greater integration into the scholarly life of the university. Academic casuals deliver the bulk of face-to-face teaching in the sector, with estimates varying from fifty to seventy per cent of contact hours, depending on the assumed FTE teaching load for casuals and continuing staff. Significantly, the Department of Education and Training assumes that casual FTE for tutors to be 25 hours face-to-face hours in a notional 35-hour week. This is inconsistent with Enterprise Agreement provisions that pay tutors for additional


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Semester 1, 2017

‘associated non-contact duties’ for every hour taught, and hence potentially substantially underestimates total casual FTE in the sector. The STF category, by reducing the marginalisation experienced by casual staff and enhancing their professional development, can be seen as a quality enhancement measure. From January 2017, for the first time, universities must meet new Commonwealth ‘Threshold Standards’ for quality. Universities must demonstrate "sustained scholarship that informs teaching and learning in all fields", and that their "academic staff are active in scholarship that informs their teaching". Casual academic teachers are paid only to teach, not to engage in scholarship. The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) has already stated that "unusually high reliance on casual staff poses risks for the quality of the student experience", signaling it intends to produce a "threshold for the ratio of ongoing staff to casual staff… for the purpose of risk assessment". The STF roles can help universities demonstrate that the staff they employ to teach are also employed to engage in scholarship. Without this it is difficult to see how they will gain a positive assessment from TEQSA. STF positions can deliver the scholarship needed in teaching, offer new career pathways for aspiring academics, and renew the workforce profile, especially important as so many continuing staff retire from the sector. Reflecting these dynamics, in the last bargaining round some universities actively embraced the STF initiative. In all, about two-thirds of universities agreed to create STF-like roles, leading to 854 positions sector-wide. Several universities resisted the idea, while others took a ‘watch and see’ approach, leaving the sector well-short of the Union target. Even so, the new positions now offer an important foundation to build-on. With casualisation in the sector continuing to grow, the STF roles offer the potential for a full reassessment of the insecurity-quality nexus in Australian university teaching. The OLT project will critically assess the STF initiative and make recommendations on how they may develop. The aim is to investigate how best to meet required standards on scholarship, job security and quality in university teaching, while addressing university and sector priorities. We are gathering perspectives from appointed STFs, from casual and continuing academics, and from university managers and various other stakeholders. We are keen to hear any views. Contact us via the project website: www.scholarlyteaching.net

NZ #lovehumanities day a big success People up and down New Zealand came together in February to tell politicians and decision-makers at tertiary education institutions that the humanities are essential to the future of the country and need proper funding. Centred on a humanities teach-in at the University of Otago, the Tertiary Education Union's (TEU) #lovehumanities day of action was conceived as a response to the government narrative that the primary purpose of education is to serve the economy. Bathed in what turned out to be short-lived sunshine, the day got underway at the University of Otago with music and poetry performed by students, lecturers and local artists. That was followed by a powerful defence of the humanities by Sandra Grey, TEU National President, at a public lecture. Students then took to the floor to share what the humanities meant to them before a panel of experts discussed the value of the humanities in a debate chaired by Associate Professor Nicola Gaston from Auckland University. TEU members at campuses around the country also held events that gave people teaching and studying subjects as diverse as the sciences, maths and engineering, the opportunity to show their support for the humanities. Events included a well-attended public forum at Victoria University and actions at Unitec, the Ara Institute of Canterbury, Massey University campuses in Albany and Manwatu and the University of Canterbury. People also took to Twitter throughout the day to show their support for the campaign, with many sharing their own experiences of what the humanities meant to them. Dr Mike Joy, a TEU member and ecologist at the University of Massey, wrote an opinion piece for the Manawatu Standard on the value of the humanities to science. In the piece, Dr Joy said “it is only when we engage in the philosophical, historical, literary and arts aspects of the humanities that we will truly understand what science is telling us.” The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations issued a statement in support of the campaign, as did Massey University and the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH). Labour and the Greens also got behind the campaign. Chris Hipkins, Labour’s spokesperson for tertiary education joined the TEU team at the University of Canterbury and Gareth Hughes, the Green’s tertiary education spokesperson, recorded a video in support of the campaign and visited the University of Otago. Grant Robertson, who was also at the University of Otago, said on Twitter that the humanities are “the very essence of a university.” Speaking at the end of a full day of activities, Sandra Grey said “We are delighted so many people came together to say how tired they are of hearing from the government that the primary purpose of their teaching or their study is to meet the needs of the economy. People trained in the humanities are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is the skills they learn in these subjects that enable us to engage in meaningful debate about the kind of world we want to live in.” Find out more at lovehumanities.nz Images courtesy TEU

read online at www.unicasual.org.au


The Trump resistance In response to the Trump election, US contingent and adjunct faculty staff and students are reclaiming education for the public good by organising around the banner of Campus Resistance (#campusresistance). Actions including marches and teachins were held on more than fifty campuses on 1 March focused upon the key demand to “Reclaim Higher Education for the Public Good”.


“One of the most highly skilled and prestigious professions in Britain, university teaching, is now dominated by zero-hours contracts, temp agencies and other forms of precarious work,” reported The Guardian UK last November. Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University and Colleges Union (UCU), claimed that academics on insecure contracts form “a reserve army of precarious and exploited labour”.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has, amongst other unions, been organising casualised academic staff, endorsed the actions. In an article explaining SEIU’s support, International Vice-President Heather Conroy and Jason Grunebaum contingent professor of Hindi at the University of Chicago, wrote:


Higher Ed for the Public Good

“Students and faculty at America’s colleges and universities stand at the confluence of many of the most troubled waters springing from the Trump administration and its corporate-driven, deeply divisive agenda. “It’s on these campuses that millions of young adults wonder whether they’ll still have health insurance if Obamacare is repealed. It’s here where those whose parents are undocumented immigrants may be forced to seek sanctuary. Hate incidents have spiked. The arts, science and intellectual freedom are under attack. Countless professors were ensnared by the administration’s illconceived travel ban. “This deluge is flooding a higher education system in which so many were already barely keeping their heads above water. Families can’t afford to send their kids to college, student debt has skyrocketed and faculty in precarious jobs are earning so little, many must rely on public assistance to make ends meet… “Americans deserve – and need – colleges that are gateways to a lifetime of opportunity for students. Institutions that are once again cornerstones of local and regional economies, providing good, stable jobs that can sustain a family. Places where children of immigrant families can pursue the American Dream without worrying they will be dragged away. Homes to robust intellectual inquiry that advances science and nurtures the arts, uncompromised by the pressures of partisan politics.” Source: www.seiu.org


Exploitation of zero hour contracts

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Semester 1, 2017

She added, “Many universities are hacking up teaching jobs into ever smaller bits and shoving people on to the worst contract they can get away with. This is the Sports Direct model imported into our universities.” More than half of academics in the UK are now on some kind of insecure contract. The latest analysis revealed that it is the richest, research intensive Russell Group institutions that rely most heavily on insecure academic workers. The Guardian wrote that, “Academics teaching or doing research in British universities will typically have spent years earning doctorates or other qualifications, yet more than half of them manage on some form of insecure, non-permanent contract. They range from short-term contracts that typically elapse within nine months, to those paid by the hour to give classes or mark essays and exams. “Among junior academics, those most likely to be doing frontline teaching, three-quarters are on these kinds of precarious contracts. It is highly likely that the majority of undergraduates are paying many thousands of pounds to be taught by casual workers.” The National Union of Students warned that low-paid and overstressed tutors may not be providing quality education to undergraduates paying tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. Source: www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/16/ universities-accused-of-importing-sports-direct-model-forlecturers-pay Below: UCU members protesting zero hour contracts at London Metropolitan University. Source: uculondonmet.wordpress.com



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Connect 10 01  

Vol. 10, no. 1. NTEU & CAPA magazine for casual and sessional academics in Australian universities.

Connect 10 01  

Vol. 10, no. 1. NTEU & CAPA magazine for casual and sessional academics in Australian universities.

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