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Vol. 10 No. 2 August 2017


Are you in the dark? It's about time VCs said "No" to funding cuts and "Yes" to decent jobs Casual staff stand to lose if the Murdoch Agreement is terminated Linking secure work to better student outcomes Australian universities' casual approach to employment No more toxic workplaces! Universities need to plan for a dark future if academics prefer their own Plan B Women are Worth 100% – Bluestocking Week 2017 RMIT Casual Employee Survey reveals the highs & lows of casual academic life

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


It's about time VCs said "No" to funding cuts and "Yes" to decent jobs


I'm In the Dark

10 Universities need to plan for a dark future if academics prefer their own Plan B


The cost of qualification creep


How will this year’s penalty rates decision affect me?


FWC recognises misuse of casual employment

14 No more toxic workplaces


How secure do you feel?

Post grads moving up


Casual staff lose if Murdoch Agreement is terminated

6 7

Linking secure work to better student outcomes

My Life as a Sessional: Caron Dann

16 RMIT Casual Employee Survey reveals the highs & lows of casual academic life 18 Women are Worth 100% 20 Australian universities' casual approach to employment 22 Welcome to Casual Corner

Casuals still struggling

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

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

NTEU Editorial

It's about time VCs said "No" to funding cuts and "Yes" to decent jobs “Careful analysis has confirmed how deeply the funding cuts would force universities to cut staff jobs and student support services.” No, that statement did not come from the NTEU protesting the latest higher education funding cuts proposed by the Turnbull Coalition Government. We did say that, going by university managements’ track record, more cuts are likely to mean bigger classes and fewer classes, deeper cuts to courses and subjects and less support for students. The NTEU did predict that universities would again respond to funding cuts by casualising more jobs and making more staff redundant, despite increased enrolments. We did say that those left working at universities would have to do more with less. Students would be expected to pay more, but get less teaching and support. Universities Australia (UA) immediately concurred and announced that the consequence of budget cuts will be jobs cuts. (The above quote is from UA CEO Belinda Robinson.) Since the Federal Budget announcements of early May, Vice-Chancellors have reiterated this message in emails and in staff meetings – that funding cuts will mean sacking staff. UA is rightly outraged that universities are expected to manage a further $2.8 billion in cuts, including efficiency dividends on the Commonwealth Grants Scheme (CGS), noting that universities have already absorbed $4 billion in cuts over the past few years. But are universities ‘forced to cut staff jobs’? Or is this their decision? Regardless of whether they are significantly dependent upon the CGS income, or can supplement this with other sources, making staff redundant and then hiring on casual or short term contracts has become the major way of ‘absorbing’ funding cuts across the system. What would have happened if the Vice-Chancellors had refused to absorb cuts? What if university managements had stood up for their staff and said no to funding cuts and said we cannot maintain the quality of education and the resources for research and engagement unless base funding per student actually covers the costs of teaching and supporting that student? Instead, the university response has been to casualise the academic workforce so that now undergraduate and postgraduate students are more likely than not to be taught by casually paid and casually treated academic teaching staff. Research quality and productivity is undermined by more and more staff on increasingly shorter contracts, and business advocates are even complaining that universities are really hard to work with because the staff turnover is so frequent. International and coursework postgraduate students are paying very big fees for less and less tuition. International students are very rightly asking why is so much online when we came all the way to Australia? At the same time new buildings go up, others are renovated and students ask why, when there are fewer staff to see in these buildings? So they stay away.

Vice-Chancellors bemoan the exacerbating problem of the plight of the academic profession especially as they concur that in some places there are not enough staff available to supervise doctoral candidates. They wring their hands about the plight of casualised and short term contractors, who will give up on academic careers, but not before they have been cynically exploited – often for years. But it is clear that university decision makers have totally absorbed the mantra that they have no choice, and it is too expensive to employ staff in decent jobs with decent conditions. They are captured by the corporate consultants, and the increasingly business dominated university councils as they are told that staff are always expendable. They are prepared to employ proportionally fewer staff in decent career focussed jobs, but they have not changed their performance expectations. However, what they also know is that university staff – academic and professional – are committed to higher education, to their university, to the students, community and, for academics, to their disciplines. Universities rely upon thousands of hours of free labour from staff with the remaining decent jobs, and have no qualms about the precariously employed putting in an extraordinary amount of unpaid hours. The trend is fewer and fewer decent jobs, with one in two new jobs in higher education now precarious. The ACTU’s claim that 40 per cent of jobs in Australia are now insecure is disputed by the business advocates, but there is no disputing that 40 per cent of the higher education sector are in insecure employment. The official government data supplied from the universities says so! The FTE actual casual and limited term workforce is growing at three times the rate of the secure workforce (see p. 20). NTEU is vigorously opposing the latest round of proposed funding cuts, but we are also putting the pressure on the university managements’ and their lobbyists to refuse to accept cuts. It is too easy for governments when they know the Vice-Chancellors will complain, but will then get on with absorbing cuts at the expense of staff and students, and quality education and research, while increasing their own remuneration packages. By the time you read this copy of Connect, many of you would have participated in the "Pay More, Get Less" National Day of Protest on 8 August, where the Union held rallies on campuses across the country calling for more not less funding to universities, and against students paying more for less. Our focus is on the Government, but also university managements as we continue to prosecute this round of enterprise bargaining focussing on increasing secure jobs and equal working conditions.

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President

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CAPA Column

The cost of qualification creep The massification of university Bachelor education was always going to put a strain on the higher education system beyond the struggles of teaching these many students and the cost on the national student debt. These issues, although disturbing the way we handle our day-to-day business, have settled down. But what comes next from these changes? While I don’t want to diminish the efforts of a student that has achieved a Bachelor’s degree, nor would I ever argue against a more educated population, but qualification creep is a real thing. This creep is turning university undergraduate education into a job preparation task and not the learning experience that universities once offered (don’t we all miss those days). It is no real surprise when employment relies on a university degree more than ever. So how do students stand out from the pack in an increasingly difficult job market? Enter the postgraduate course. Some universities are already well underway in the development of postgraduate qualifications compared to others but the patchwork nature across the sector of these courses is creating the next wave of inequality for students. Need a Masters in Architecture? Sure, have a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) as well as access to income support. Need a Masters in Conservation Biology? No, sorry you don’t “need” that qualification to do the job, so tough cookies. What happens to the students whose degrees are not considered “necessary” to their employability in a profession? Those students have two choices. Firstly, they can spend two years incurring a massive HELP debt, given that postgraduate fees are much higher, all the while working part-time and putting their life on hold because they do not have access to income support. The second option is to go out into the workforce and compete with students that could afford that postgraduate degree, and thence be hamstrung in your career forevermore. The missing ingredient is fair and equitable support to all coursework students at universities regardless of their courses. This means CSPs as well as access to income support. It is something that CAPA has pushed for in the past and will continue to do so but the postgraduate coursework students are so often the lost voice of the students. All undergraduates are given access to income support and over 80 per cent of research students are provided with scholarships. Of course, to provide the required support to students to prevent inequality we need to spend that everelusive dollar. For some strange reason the idea of spending money to end equality and provide everyone with equal opportunity education is an ideal not worth pursuing. It does not need to be the uncontrollable spending of the demand driven undergraduate student system and, given the specialisation of these courses, capping the places may seem logical. An argument could even be made that by making these courses accessible to low-SES students you increase university income. Students are going to need postgraduate qualifications to compete in both a domestic and a global market but right now these qualifications are closed off for many. The voucher system currently proposed might help fix some of the patches across the sector but the time will come when support must be extended to these students. The only question left to be asked is how many students are left behind before the problem is fixed? Peter Derbyshire is the President of CAPA


Connect // Volume 10, no. 2

Semester 2, 2017

Peter Derbyshire CAPA President

How will this year’s penalty rates decision affect me? By Susan Kenna National Industrial Officer

The answer to this question is, in the short term, not at all in your university job. However, the decision is not a good sign for the Australian workforce generally – including for casual university staff who are also working other jobs. Non-academic staff – including casuals and fixed term staff- are entitled to penalty rates for working in excess of certain ordinary hours, or outside the span of hours, under our awards and enterprise agreements, and academic casuals are paid loadings and additional rates in relation to preparation, marking and other activity, as appropriate.

Casual loadings The 25 per cent casual loading "compensates" casual staff for job insecurity, the fact that they are not entitled to paid leave and public holidays. However, there is a common misunderstanding that casuals are not eligible to be paid the appropriate penalty rate if they work on a public holiday (or outside ordinary or rostered hours). The 25 per cent casual loading is not "compensation" if a casual staff member is required to work on a public holiday. And, in some cases, staff are entitled to paid time off work, in lieu of an overtime payment. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision on penalty rates concerned a review of certain industry awards. The problem is that in the affected industries, most workers are award reliant – in that they are not covered by Enterprise Agreements which include better wages and conditions. Almost all workers in higher education are covered by Enterprise Agreements.

Cuts in hospitality, retail, fast food and pharmacy rates The FWC found that the nature of work and working hours had changed such that it is appropriate to cut penalty rates for staff in hospitality, retail, fast food and pharmacy sectors. Rates were cut mainly via reductions in the Sunday and public holiday penalty rates. This will mean wage cuts for many of these workers who rely solely on the award rates and for whom Sunday is a normal working day.

Threat to span of hours Such an application is not likely in the short to medium-term but the application of penalty rates is always threatened by employer moves to extend the span of hours under Enterprise Agreements. If the span of hours is extended, there are less hours during which employees can attract penalty rates and this is often on the table from employers during bargaining negotiations. If casual (or any) staff currently receive penalty rates outside a certain span of hours or shift, these are taken away if the ‘normal span’ or shift hours are changed. This attempt to change the span of hours is, and remains, the main threat to NTEU members losing penalty rates. Such moves can be defended during enterprise bargaining negotiations and campaigning.

FWC recognises misuse of casual employment In a significant decision, a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has extended casual conversion clauses to 85 modern Awards. This means that workers dependent on Awards for their pay and conditions will now have the option to apply to convert to permanent full or part-time work, once they have had regular and systematic employment for 12 months. This provision already exists in the Higher Education (General Staff) Award 2010 for professional/general staff in higher education and in most of our Enterprise Agreements. An attempt by the ACTU to use this Award as a vehicle to achieve a ‘deeming’ provision for casual staff has failed. This would have meant automatic conversion for staff after 12 months, unless they opted out, but the Commission was not prepared to grant this claim.

The two key unions in these sectors have asked the Federal Court to quash the FWC ruling mainly on the grounds that the Commission did not adequately consider one of the modern award objectives, which is to “consider the relative living standards and needs of the low paid”. A hearing on this matter will start sometime after September 2017.

The case was part of the large Award Review process before the Commission, where they are required to review each of the 120 modern awards to ensure they are still providing a relevant safety net. In higher education, the overwhelming majority of staff are on Enterprise Agreements but the General Staff and Academic Staff Awards must still remain up to date in order to provide a sound test that Enterprise Agreements leave workers ‘better off overall’.

In higher and post-secondary education, a cut in penalty rates would only occur if the employer bodies sought to make similar award applications (the FWC limited their decision to the industries outlined above). Even then, if granted, this would only affect higher education workers if they were not covered by an Enterprise Agreement and relied on the Award. Staff in TAFE, ELICOS and across private providers are more likely to be award reliant.

The third of our modern awards, the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010 covers TAFE, ELICOS and other staff in the post-secondary sector. Many of these staff are award reliant (they are not covered by Enterprise Agreements), so the NTEU is hoping to extend the conversion clause to this Award.

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How secure do you feel? By Celeste Liddle National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Organiser

Over the past few years, based on data released by the Government and the fact that a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (A&TSI) centres on campus have steadily been mainstreamed, concern has been mounting that A&TSI employment opportunities are becoming more and more precarious. This has been reflected by a growing gap between full time equivalent and actual staff members in the sector, along with anecdotal evidence from NTEU A&TSI members that more were expected to take up casual engagements, or endure countless rolling contracts. Late last year, the NTEU A&TSI Unit surveyed our membership to gain a better understanding of workplace security, workload issues and the impacts of constant restructures on them. The How Secure Do You Feel? report, which contains the findings of this member survey, is due to be released at this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Forum. Preliminary data indicates that despite the Union consistently pursuing employment and condition clauses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff within Agreements, universities are not only broadly failing to provide secure opportunities, but the environment on campus is getting tougher. When it came to the questions around change management, for example, 76 per cent of respondents stated that they had been through a change management process on campus. Worryingly, only 8 per cent of members indicated that the

Post grads moving up By Chloe Gaul Industrial Organiser, University of Melbourne Branch

The University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association and NTEU are partnering to bring to new academics and professional staff a program that sets them up for success in higher education fields of study and work, and is seeking input from senior academics. The program is a pilot that will be rolled out for the benefit of new higher education workers around the country. We aim to present a career focussed presentation and workshop about how to create and develop a portfolio for academic engagement and promotion, navigating the university employment environment for casual staff, new staff and fixed term staff and to get to know your rights as an academic and/or a professional staff member.


Connect // Volume 10, no. 2

Semester 2, 2017

change management process had a positive impact upon hours of work and only 15 per cent of responses indicated the change management process had a positive impact upon duties performed. Data also suggests that most are working beyond the number of hours that they are engaged for, with 43 per cent indicating that they worked beyond a full time load. Regarding job security overall, 59 per cent of respondents stated that they felt insecure or very insecure in their employment. A resounding 75 per cent who had been engaged in their employment for more than 12 months indicated that they felt their role was less secure than it had been a year ago. It was telling that nearly two-thirds of respondents indicated that they do not anticipate their employment becoming more secure in the coming years. This does not bode well for a sector which still only has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staffing contingent of 1 per cent and a student contingent of 1.3 per cent. If employment conditions for A&TSI staff on campus don’t improve, universities will have little chance of ever reaching government-prescribed parity numbers as potential staff will look to other industries and students will take their newly-acquired skills elsewhere. As long as soft money continues to be the basis of employment for many A&TSI staff, universities are not investing in and promoting Indigenous knowledges and spaces on campus. The report will be launched at the National A&TSI Forum on 4 August and will be available via the NTEU website in the coming weeks.

We are specifically looking to engage postgraduate students' interest and focus on their future employment rights, and to enhance the ability for new employees to be successfully employed and promoted within the university environment. NTEU offers free membership to postgraduate students as part of our commitment to the future of higher education workers. We are seeking the input of senior academic NTEU members to assist us in developing materials and presenting at workshops. We beleive our members are best placed to describe how to prepare for a career at a university, list some of the ways to enter university employment, and make a successful contribution to higher education. We will explain how to prepare a portfolio of work to assist people to be engaged and promoted in universities, outline some of the current challenges facing universities broadly and how they are choosing to employ and promote people within this framework. As part of this initiative it is our aim to increase the level of knowledge of key rights available to workers within the higher education sector and to investigate the role of NTEU within the higher education sector. This program will be piloted in September 2017. To assist, please contact Chloe Gaul,

Casual staff lose if Murdoch Agreement is terminated By Marty Braithwaite WA Division Senior State Organiser

Casual university staff have few enforceable employment rights and protections, and many of those that do exist at Murdoch University stand to be lost if management’s attempt to terminate the University’s Enterprise Agreement is successful. In an action already well-reported, Murdoch University management has applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate the Agreement which covers the University’s 3,500 staff, more than 2,000 of them casual or sessional staff and a further 400 on fixed-term contracts. The FWC hearing concluded on 21 July, but the outcome is not yet known. If Murdoch’s application is successful, the only enforceable protection for terms and conditions of employment would be those in National Employment Standards (NES) and Modern Awards. In almost every case, they are inferior to the Enterprise Agreement, and there are many other rights and protections which would have no enforceable protection at all.

No restraints For the many who view casual and sessional employment as a path to more secure university academic careers, termination of the Agreement will have a significant impact. Setting aside the issue of pay which, could fall by as much as 39 per cent, there would no longer be any restraints on the use of casuals and no obligation on management to look at career development or opportunities for more secure employment. At present, casual academic staff averaging more than ten hours per week can request HR to consider whether a casual contract is the most appropriate type of contract. Where appropriate, those staff could be converted to a fixed-term or on-going contract.

Obligations and commitments gone This is a provision, reinforced under the Enterprise Agreement by an enforceable commitment, that the University only uses casual academic contracts where it is reasonable and appropriate to do so. University managements must also endeavour not to employ more casuals than the industry average. These obligations could be gone, completely, if the Enterprise Agreement is terminated. Significantly, the University has entered into a commitment through the Enterprise Agreement to establish Scholarly Teaching Fellow positions for work which would otherwise be done by casual staff. It was a move designed to counteract the increasing casualisation of jobs at the University and offer some work on a more secure basis. That commitment could also go. Coupled with that, casual academic staff could lose right of access to workplace email, computer networks, library cards, paid induction, along with the current access to funding grants and professional development funds. Rights were negotiated into the Enterprise Agreement to redress complaints from casual staff that they were treated as second class citizens and not included in such things as academic decision-making and workplace meetings within schools and faculties.

Currently, casual staff have access to grievance processes in the Enterprise Agreement to try and resolve disagreements in the workplace. Such access could disappear, and dispute rights could be diminished through the curtailing of the internal University process. The right to take some matters to the FWC for conciliation and/or arbitration could be lost. At a more general level, committees such as the academic and professional staff consultative committees could go, as could the right for staff to be consulted on changes to policies affecting terms and conditions of employment. Currently consultative groups meet with management on a regular basis to ensure the Enterprise Agreement operates in a practical fashion and provide a constructive opportunity to iron out problems before they arise. They form the basis of a collaborative approach to ensuring good employment relationships and stand to be gone. The list goes on: there would be no enforceable access to domestic and family violence leave, staff would be less aware of aspirational provisions such as to environmental sustainability, or rights and obligations around workplace bullying, and casual academic staff protection against improper crediting of publications. It may be that casual staff pay scant attention to Enterprise Agreements, such is the precarious and insecure nature of their work, but these rights and protections are valuable and already insecure work will become even less secure should Murdoch’s Enterprise Agreement be terminated. The time is right for casual academic staff to stand together, join NTEU and ensure that those conditions that have been fought for and won through enterprise bargaining remain, not just for current staff, but for future generations of academics trying to establish and build academic careers.

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Linking secure work to better student outcomes By Andrew MacDonald National Media & Communications Officer

In June this year the Australian Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) released a new report1 examining the characteristics of Australian Higher Education Providers and their relation to first year student attrition. The study analysed 2014 data from 130 providers, and grouped together similar providers to seek ‘common institutional characteristics that could be linked to higher levels of attrition’. A lower proportion of senior academic staff, a lower proportion of postgraduate students and a lower proportion of full-time academic staff were among the common characteristics identified. NTEU was quick in pointing to the report as further evidence that more secure jobs are needed in higher education to improve standards and student outcomes across the sector. “These findings support what the NTEU has been saying for some time,” said NTEU National President Jeannie Rea in a media release2 responding to the report. “If we are to maintain and improve the standards of Australia’s higher education system, and outcomes for students, then it is vital that higher education staff are employed in more secure jobs. “Casually employed academic staff, often paid for just a few hours each week, already deliver up to 70 per cent of classes in some courses in our universities according to research released late last year. This is even higher in non-university providers. “Meanwhile the professional staff who provide vital support services to students are also grappling with the uncertainty of insecure work, either through casual or fixed term employment, at unacceptably high levels.

“Although they are essential to the running of universities, seasonally employed academics are taken for granted. Institutions know that they have trained too many PhDs, saturating the market for academic employment and providing an endless supply of the cheap sessional labour that maximises income from student fees. That profit stems partly from the fact that a vast amount of the work done by casual academics goes entirely unpaid.” “This willingness among junior scholars to make up the difference between hours worked and hours paid is not the result of their benevolence, however. Nor does it stem from their passion for their subject, or their self-interest in building a portfolio likely to culminate in a lucrative professorship. It is quite simply that the work needs to be done if students are to get an education. And complaining about it would jeopardise casual staff’s future employment prospects – such that they are – and those who do complain often report being made to feel incompetent or inefficient.” The article continued that the lot of casual academics is made harder still by struggles to pay rent and make good career choices between semesters, before further asserting the treatment of young scholars today is not dissimilar to the situation in Victorian times when trainee teachers in Australian schools were paid little to nothing until they were examined by “often-tardy” inspectors. Trainees tolerated the system which continued for a “shamefully long time” because they hoped it would result in rewarding careers which, for many, never eventuated, noted the authors. The authors pointed out the problems in hierarchical professions, like teaching, were in part structural, whereby “those who have succeeded often dismiss the fact that their job security sits atop such exploitation because they can usually say, truthfully, that they endured it, too – so why shouldn’t their successors?”

“University employers need to do better by their staff and students if they want to improve attrition rates and keep raising standards.”

The article continued that “those at the bottom are likely to accept this view too” given they often “do not see those above them in the hierarchy as their bosses so much as models for what they hope to become”.

NTEU is not alone in its view. An article by Australian academics, Hannah Forsyth and Jedidiah Evans3 published internationally in Times Higher Education also referenced the TEQSA report, in likening the “the sweatshop conditions in which sessional academics work in Australia” to “the treatment of schoolteachers in Victorian times.”

“But the fact is that however hard previous generations had to scrape for permanent academic positions, the present generation of early career academics have it even harder. Many will not reap the ultimate career benefits of their free labour, and they deserve more sympathy from their luckier colleagues than they are currently getting,” read the report.

“A recent report from… TEQSA suggests that a high proportion of casual academics may be linked to growing levels of student attrition in higher education,” read the Times Higher Education report.


“This is not likely to be because casual scholars make worse teachers: indeed, for the most part, the students are in good hands. But the teachers are not.


Connect // Volume 10, no. 2

Semester 2, 2017

1. 2. 3.

Casuals still struggling By Michael Evans National Organiser

Responses from casual academic staff to NTEU’s 2017 State of the Uni Survey indicate that on a range of general conditions and circumstances, things haven’t changed much since the Survey was last conducted in 2015.

time or parttime – 72% in the 2017 Survey and 76% in 2015.

40 35


38 35




30 25

Things haven’t changed much % 20 Over 1,400 casual 35 between the 17.1 2015 2017 15 academic staff two surveys 12.5 10 30 31.3 responded to 30.7 (Fig. 4) around 10 29.3 8.6 the Survey in 27.6 the issues of 5 25 May, nearly three how well casual 1.5 2.4 0 22.4 times the 2015 academic staff 20 Permanent Fixed term contract Happy % response rate. participate 17.8 18 FT PT FT PT as is 16.5 15 They provide in the ‘nonFig 2. How long have you worked in your current position? teaching’ Fig. 3:. If offered, what type of work would be your a snapshot 10 preference? 2017 Survey 2015 Survey of conditions activities in < 1 year 16.6% 16.2% 5 generally for their Faculty or 2.9 2.5 32.6% 34.3% casuals working 1 – 3 years Department. Leaving aside graduation ceremonies, the majority 4 –0 5 years 17.4% 21.5% in Australia’s of respondents participate in the other listed activities, but they Not previously <3 3–5 6–10 > 10 6 –worked 10 years 21.5% 19.1% universities. do it overwhelmingly voluntarily. University managements are in sector YEARS 11 – 20 years 9.8% 7.5% still not very good at ensuring that casual employees are treated Fig. 1:. Overall, how long have you worked in the Figure 1 shows > 20 years 2.1% 1.4% equally and considered valued staff members. sector as a casual or sessional academic? that nearly 44% of respondents Casual academic staff continue to be a focus of NTEU’s Secure (down from over Jobs campaign and Round 7 enterprise bargaining. Key 35 2015 2017 34.3 60% in 2015) components of the Secure Jobs campaign are to enforce existing 32.6 30 have worked in provisions around the creation of Scholarly Teaching Fellow (STF) the sector for or equivalent type jobs, where ongoing teaching-focused jobs 25 more than five are created for which only existing casual staff can apply; and years. Looked at to seek to create more of these positions as part of this round of 21.5 21.5 20 19.1 in conjunction % bargaining. 17.4 15 16.2 16.6 with Figure 2 Casual conversion initiatives for union members have also where a third 10 been taken up and won at a number of universities, using 9.8 of respondents existing provisions in Agreements to have long-term casual staff 7.5 have worked 5 converted to more secure employment. in their current 1.4 2.1 0 position for But we still have a long way to go. <1 1–3 4–5 6–10 11–20 > 20 more than five YEARS years, it’s clear that this type Fig. 2: How long have you worked in of employment your current position? has become the 2015 2017 norm, for what is clearly in many cases Induction Student consultation outside of normal class regular ongoing work. This reflects the reality that more than 50% of normal undergraduate teaching across Australia’s universities is done by casual academic staff. Respondents put the lie once again to the general employer and government assertion that most casual employees prefer that mode of employment because of the ‘flexibility’ it provides. They have overwhelmingly indicated in both surveys that they would prefer permanent employment, either full-

Did you participate?

Yes 50%

Yes 56%

Yes 36%

Yes 44%

Did you participate?

Yes 83%

Yes 80%

Were you paid to take part?

Yes 23%

Staff development or training

Dept/School/Faculty meetings

Did you participate?

Did you participate?

Yes 56%

Yes 57%

Were you paid to take part?

Yes 32%

Yes 40%

Yes 43%

Graduation ceremonies Did you participate?

Fig. 4: Did you participate in any of the following as part of your job? And were you paid do so?

Were you paid to take part?

Yes 15%

Yes 20%

Yes 43%

Yes 26%

Were you paid to take part?

Yes 17%

Yes 25%

Social events Were you paid to take part?

Yes 2%

Yes 6%

Did you participate?

Yes 45%

Yes 46%

Were you paid to take part?

Yes 2%

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Yes 2%


"I received awards, excellent feedback and have excellent colleagues – but what I would really like to have is a permanent position." NTEU casual member, RMIT University (campaign survey)


in the dark 8

Connect // Volume 10, no. 2

Semester 2, 2017

Casual staff are too often kept in the dark. Given the significant anxiety, uncertainty and career issues created by precarious employment, improving job security is a key priority for the RMIT University NTEU Branch. In the lead-up to the latest round of enterprise bargaining a decision was taken to prepare a campaign with our casual members to engage, inform and recruit members to the secure work cause. With the Branch Committee committed to seeking the introduction of a conversion clause and extension of existing ECDF targets in a new Agreement, local activists began collaborating with Branch and Victorian Division staff to develop the casuals campaign. The team began by inviting RMIT staff to ‘put their hand up for secure work’ via a flyer and postering blitz. Casual staff were asked to join the union if they hadn’t already, complete a short survey, discuss their insecure work experiences with friends and attend a catered lunch.

During this well-attended meeting, patterns of precarious employment in Australian universities and existing rights and entitlements of RMIT casual staff were explored.

Career Development Fellowships (ECDFs) were negotiated last bargaining round, for example. That’s forty ongoing positions at RMIT University for people previously employed casually

The conversation generated a whiteboard of points, as attendees shared their issues and concerns about casual work.

During the current round of bargaining where hoping to build upon these gains, including through the current campaign.

Overwhelmingly, the list showed that staff employed casually at RMIT University were often left feeling like they’re ‘working in the dark’. This become the theme of the campaign.

The team will continue In the Dark stalls as Semester Two gets going. Our messaging will show non-members why collective action works and to seek their commitment to join us as we represent secure work at the bargaining table. Close to thirty new casuals members have joined us so far. Let’s keep attention on this issue.

By finding a way of representing the frustrations felt by so many casuals – not being able to read their payslips, the impossible situation of receiving a generic computer-generated ‘instrument of employment’ on their first engagement (many years ago for most) – In the Dark took the campaign to the campus. A stall was set up to encourage staff participation in the Branch casuals survey, to join the union and to have a photo taken with a paper bag over their heads, explaining how they were ‘in the dark’.

By Dave Willis, Victorian Division Organiser, RMIT Branch (in collaboration with Jo Taylor and Andrew MacDonald). Photos: Toby Cotton

Branch activists and staff also wore these campaign bags for the duration of the stall. “I’m in the dark because I’m scared to complain” written on a paper bag was a great conversation starter! Thanks to the active support of NTEU members casual staff have previously won some important gains with improved entitlements and greater job opportunities at RMIT University. Over forty Early

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Universities need to plan for a

dark future

if academics prefer their own

Plan B

By Ruth Barcan Dept of Gender & Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

When I bent over my home printer one day last year to check that it was switched on, its tiny digital screen told me that it was in “deep sleep”. And for a moment – honestly – I felt jealous. Admittedly, my sleep had been particularly broken the night before. A bit of 3am dialogue with my daughter, who had woken up and come into bed with me, had left us both wide awake. After lying there beset by little pinpricks of white fear about how many things I had to do in the coming months, I had resorted to a meditation CD featuring the soothing Scottish accent of a man named Bodhipaksa. It worked like a charm – for my daughter, at least. The irony is that one of the things I was worried about was a deadline associated with a research project on academic dissatisfaction. It is a small, qualitative study of academics who left, or are thinking of leaving, the profession “early”. In one or two cases, they felt that they could better use their talents elsewhere, but their reasons were mostly that they had been unable to secure stable ongoing work, or that the pressures and distresses of academic work had become unbearable. The project, titled Weighing Up Futures: Experiences of Giving up an Academic Career, consists of 21 interviews and 13 written surveys. Participants, mostly from the UK and Australia, were selected semi-randomly from among the hundred or so people who contacted me in response to a single email sent to the mailing list of a higher education association, and one related tweet. There is a saddening and powerful familiarity to their tales. A recurring contradiction is that people who truly and deeply loved academic work are much happier and healthier now that they are no longer doing it. Casual staff were demoralised by the precariousness, while tenured staff were disturbed by the increasingly corporatist ethos of the university and found the workload, as one participant puts it, “close to not-doable”. Another sums it up like this: “I genuinely have a life now that I would not have if I had taken the academic path. I have time for friends, for sport, for life!” These findings should surprise no one who has been following the state of higher education. As early as 1996, a Guardian survey of UK academics found that one in five had thought daily about leaving academia. Twenty years later, Times Higher Education’s 2016 University Workplace Survey found that while 64 per cent of the 1,398 academics surveyed found their job “rewarding”, 39 per cent of them wanted to quit. Reasons included spending too much time working (68 per cent) and negative health impacts (51 per cent). There appears to be something distinctive about academics’ experience of work-related stress. Numerous surveys of academics in the UK, Australia and Canada have found not only that stress has been on the rise for some decades, but also that its reported level now exceeds that in the general population. (The work of Vic Catano, professor of psychology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, is one place to find summaries of these studies.) The 1996 Guardian survey also found that academics were considerably more demoralised than individuals surveyed from 20 other occupational groups.


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But is there really anything unique about the problems faced by academics? “Outsiders” suggest to me, with varying degrees of grace, that the precariousness of casual academics is shared by an increasing proportion of contemporary white-collar workers, and that laments about stress, overwork and time poverty are par for the course in all sorts of jobs. There is much truth in this. According to Sarah Sharma, author of In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics, contemporary labour is underpinned by three “normal[ised] and mutually reinforcing conceptions of time”. These are that “(1) time management is the individual’s responsibility; (2) one must work harder to stay in time; and (3) being tired is a slow person’s excuse for being unproductive”. The point about individual responsibility is perhaps especially true of universities, where academics’ capacity to determine the work that they do and the way that it will be managed exceeds that of most professions. Should academics be pitied less for their difficulties in meeting deadlines when, unlike many other employees, they had some role in creating or accepting those deadlines? Academics’ relative autonomy is also manifested in their ability to complain about their working conditions and to analyse them in public. This reflects the value placed by a wider society on academic labour, but, again, some might well argue that complaints from academics about time poverty are less morally urgent than complaints from other, less empowered workers about precariousness and economic poverty. But regardless of such moral accounting, academic professional discontent matters because the university is an institution like no other. Its crucial role in producing and reproducing knowledge, educating and training people of all ages and serving society more generally means that the well-being and creative potential of its core workers should concern everyone.

Three characteristics of academic labour stand out as particularly distinctive: its boundlessness, its enmeshment with personal identity and its putative commitment to the social good. All these typify what has traditionally been called a vocation. Almost all the study participants are happy to embrace this term and agree that leaving academia is different from leaving other professions. They cite the intensity of the work, its specialisation, the years of training required to secure even a foothold in the profession and the difficulty of “getting back in” after stepping out of it. One of the conditions that makes demoralisation possible is, of course, the possession of high hopes and expectations in the first place – so it is, perversely, a marker of a certain kind of professional privilege. But vocational work is double-edged: it provides very real satisfactions and even long-term health benefits, but its sacrificial dimensions open it up to exploitation by others. The intertwining of professional life with personal identity and a commitment to the social good is also common in teaching and nursing – and, sure enough, reports are common of widespread stress, demoralisation and values conflict in these professions, too, caused by the increasing demands and bureaucratisation that have accompanied the marketisation of the education and health sectors. According to a recent survey, up to half of all Australian teachers leave the classroom within five years. And in a 2016 study of Australian nurses and midwives, 32 per cent indicated that they had seriously considered quitting the profession. The study authors estimated a typical annual business turnover rate to be about 4 per cent. I suspect, though, that sacrificial, grateful or vocational relationships to employment are slowly spreading beyond these professions – among employers, if not employees. This is due, continued overpage...

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Universities need to plan for a dark future if academics prefer their own Plan B ...continued from previous page in part, to a growing sense, promoted by the various happiness industries, that all aspects of our life, including work, should be creative and satisfying; this promotes a sense (naive or cynical) among bosses that everyone aspires to a collegial, satisfying workplace in which everyone gives a bit extra. But we should not underestimate, either, the extent to which the exercise of brute corporate power in deregulated labour markets can enforce a more sacrificial attitude. Earlier this year, for instance, an illustrative incident in a branch of one of the two multinational chains that dominate the Australian supermarket landscape went viral. A trainee store manager sent an email to his 65 staff urging them to come in on a Sunday for four hours to clear a backlog of stock. “Plentiful” pizza would be on offer, but no extra pay. “I’m asking team members to give me 4hrs free labour,” he wrote – in the same week that considerable political turmoil erupted over a government attempt to reduce the enhanced rates the casual weekend workers receive. While this incident appears to have been a one-off (the supermarket chain condemned it immediately), it may nevertheless point to new ways in which paid work is understood as something that employees should be grateful for and obedient to, and to which leisure and family responsibilities should play second fiddle. In other words, more and more people are obliged to treat their work as a vocation even if they would never think of it in those terms, and even if they receive none of the compensatory sense of meaning and fulfilment. But if the corporate sector is picking up on the usefulness of the vocational ethos, the dynamic can also work in reverse. At least some academics now expect little more from their universities than other workers expect from their corporations. Many appear to feel that the care they display towards their students and colleagues is not returned to them by their managers. In the THE survey, more than 56 per cent of academic respondents disagreed with the statement: “My employer cares for the well-being of its staff.” In terms of academic work specifically, the biggest question I am left with is an empirical one: just who is leaving the university early? The small scale of my project means that I was not trying to elicit statistical or generalisable data, so it was only by accident that I stumbled on an indication that something might be seriously wrong on the gender front. Roughly 80 per cent of offers to participate in my project came from women. Some of the respondents took the gender issue as a given, one noting matter of factly that although women were well represented in her discipline, “we’re pushed out of academia so readily”. A UK participant said: “I think we’re going backwards on [academic staff] diversity.” Can this be true? The question urgently requires further investigation, as does the possibility that other demographic skews might also be in play when it comes to a propensity to quit the academy; quite a number of the interviewees mentioned in passing that they were the first in their family to go to university, for instance.


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But the ultimate question that my research raises cannot be answered by empirical research alone. It is a conceptual and political one: what do we think universities are for – or should be for? How much credence you give the notion of a crisis in academic retention depends, in part, on how much you want to fight for the necessary distinctiveness of the university’s institutional form. And that, in turn, depends on whether you see universities primarily as communities of scholars, producers and repositories of knowledge, laboratories for solving big problems or as major contributors, directly and indirectly, to national economies. For example, while the public may not feel much sympathy for the time poverty of people who are more able than most to work from home, they may care that a youthful researcher in cancer genetics – or law, or architecture, or early childhood education – decides that “the career I fell in love with no longer exists”, and drops out. Even someone with little sympathy for the human story behind that statement might wonder whether such an outcome is a reasonable return on national investment in human capital. Of course, this is not only a picture of waste. Viewed positively, the exit of high-level expertise from the academy into a variety of other socially valuable sectors where it might not ordinarily have gone, such as school education, is a good thing. And even those who do not end up in such careers – an educationalist I interviewed had left to sell gelato; the cancer geneticist was seriously considering insurance – often find energising and productive ways of using their intellect outside the academy. Still, most skilled and economically significant professions in which almost 40 per cent of workers want to leave would be viewed as being in crisis. Even if there are plenty of young would-be academics in the queue to replace them, universities’ relinquishment of specialists from virtually all fields of knowledge, often at the peak of their capacities, has to be seen as a threat to sustainable, long-term knowledge production. The main THE feature a fortnight after the workplace survey was a “Workload survival guide for academics”. How about a serious attempt to manage the problem at its source – in the name of “business continuity”, or for the sake of the knowledge economy if the care of people and the expansion of knowledge is not motivation enough? In the absence of such an effort, we will also need a “brain drain survival guide for university managers”. Because there is a grave risk that rather than merely fighting for survival in the academy, more and more people will choose to thrive outside it. This article originally appeared in the Times Higher Education, 13 July 2017. Reprinted with permission.


Caron Dann Monash University


t’s obvious that urgent changes are needed to fix the burgeoning problem of insecure work in the tertiary education sector. For the moment, however, thousands of Australian academics are stuck with it and have to make the best they can of it. I’ve been a sessional as my primary income source since 2008, the year after I graduated with my PhD. I decided years ago that I wasn’t going to be a victim, that I would hold my head up and be proud of being a sessional academic. I want to share here my five top tips for survival as a sessional: 1. Treat yourself as a business with only one product: yourself. Have a plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C. Spend time each week on administrating your business, including campaigning for work for next semester. 2. Work for more than one organisation if you can. The pathway institutes are always looking for good sessionals and can be a source of flexible and constant work, especially if they run a trimester system, because you then get work over summer. Many universities have their own pathway institutes run as separate businesses, such as Monash College (Monash University) and Trinity College (University of Melbourne). 3. Stop applying for jobs you’ll never get: it’s soul-destroying. If you’re a long-term sessional who needs to make their primary income from this work, you will have little time for your own research, thus won’t be competitive for teaching-research academic jobs. Apply only for teaching-focused positions, which despite the title will usually also allow you time for some research. 4. Get a good accountant who knows about academia and who can help you claim everything you’re entitled to: home office use, technological hardware and software, travel between campuses, mobile media use and book purchases are some examples. My story has a positive ending: I was successful this year in obtaining a Scholarly Teaching Fellowship with three-year full-time contract at the university where I have been working for nearly a decade. I have the Union to thank for its work during the last Enterprise Agreement in negotiating this step forward to help sessionals into more secure employment.

Caron Dann is an academic at Monash University and an NTEU member.

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In the current round of Enterprise Bargaining at the University of Sydney, the NTEU is pushing strongly for more secure work and fair working conditions for casuals. Perhaps nowhere in the University are these issues more serious than in the Student Centre.

No more

toxic workplaces

On 3 May, NTEU members joined with the SRC and students outside the Student Centre to highlight the toxic workplace culture that has taken hold there. Kitted up in hazmat outfits, we handed out information to staff and students entering the Centre, and made plenty of noise with speeches about the issues. Staff in the Student Centre play a crucial role in handling enquiries from current and prospective students. They work incredibly hard, but a chaotic and punitive senior management culture there has made their workplace toxic, and also resulted in delays and problems for students. Key problems include: • A gross overuse of casual contracts where work is on-going. • Intense overwork, including pressure on many staff to work overtime and weekends to clear backlogs that are no fault of their own. • Job insecurity, including last minute management decisions about work availability and short-term contracts. • Constant structural change and high levels of staff turnover. Staff who have spoken up against the deteriorating conditions have been intimidated, and others fear to speak up because they are worried about their jobs. In late August 2016, 60 casual staff who were promised work until the end of the year were dismissed overnight. At the end of April 2017, dozens more casuals were informed that there will be no further work for them until later in the year, while many permanent positions in the staff structure remain unfilled.


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At the end of May, over 30 more casuals worked for two weeks without getting paid on time because their contracts were not extended, only then to find out two weeks later that they would get no further work. Days later, the same positions were advertised even though 19 people had made an expression of interest for further work. As one former staff member put it to us: “We were guaranteed full-time hours, with continuous verbal rhetoric of overtime work available for months to come. These were casuals who had forfeited other employment offers because of this promise. I’ve never worked in a more toxic environment. It is such a shame that the great memories I’ve had as an undergraduate student here at the University have been tainted by the experiences I’ve had at the student centre.”

The Student Centre: sign of things to come? With the centralisation of student enquiries, a call centre has been built into level 3 of Jane Foss Russell. Staff performance is measured by the number of enquiries answered in a space of minutes; this is displayed on large TV screens throughout the centre. A ticketing system for in-person enquiries was introduced in 2016, with the alleged goal to shorten queues. In fact, it has caused the opposite. Staff are forced to log every enquiry: this takes time, and the removal of front-facing offices such as scholarships has meant longer delays in getting specialist help. Student Centre management recently advertised a handful of ongoing roles in the centre but at the same time, middle managers were told to prepare for another 100 casuals to start work, while casuals from the previous big pool who had submitted expressions of interest to get further work, had to hustle to get rostered on to a shift. If they had not doggedly kept asking when they would work, and if we had not intervened and

pushed to have the people who put EOIs in to get further work, it would not have happened. The centre is now open for longer and staff are forced onto a roster which can include working outside core hours. A compulsory meeting is held at 8am every Friday and has been used to instil discipline and fear in the workforce. There is a 9-month block out where staff cannot take annual leave, further entrenching the idea that staff do not have a right to a life outside of work. A uniform has been introduced and in 2016, management attempted to ban the wearing of shorts to work. More recently, staff have continued to report unresolved issues including the stress of having to meet unrealistic and unreasonable targets, and being micromanaged. Staff are required to respond to seven calls in an hour but this target doesn’t take into account the complexity of some inquiries. Concerns have also been raised about a lack of adequate training, and time to read numerous emails from the Faculties with course updates and other information that staff are required to be familiar with, as well as an ‘Escalation Log’ sheet that staff are required to complete after every enquiry that requires referral. Staff have reported that there is no clear purpose for the log sheet and that, there was no consultation or explanation to staff when it was introduced. Concerns have also been raised about staff not being paid for work they do over and above their rostered hours. NTEU will continue to campaign to bring an end to the toxic working conditions in the Student Centre, and to ensure that they are not allowed to spread to other parts of the University. By Kurt Iveson, Alma Torkalovic & Cat Coghlan, NTEU University of Sydney Branch Image: gilitukha / 123RF Stock Photo

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RMIT Casual Employee Survey reveals the

highs & lows of casual academic life By Jo Taylor Member Organiser, Victorian Division

From March to June 2017, the RMIT University Branch ran a Casual Employee Survey. On the positive side, most casual staff felt "included and respected" and almost all felt their "contribution is valuable". However, other findings reconfirm problems stemming from issues such as insecurity, exclusion from decision-making, multiple workplaces, and affect on family life. Sent to all RMIT members as well as all casual NTEU members in Victoria (some casual members who work at RMIT could be registered as members at other institutions), with a request that they distribute the survey link to colleagues. The data collection concluded with 110 responses: 96 academic (with 7 of these research-only) and 14 professional employees. Respondents were asked about their casual employment history, hours and type of work, resources, as well as several job satisfaction questions, focusing on 2016 and 2015. Job satisfaction survey questions were based on questions included in the UK's 2014 Best University Workplace Survey 2015. Statistical data from the 2012 and 2016 NTEU Casual Members surveys, as well as the annual collection of higher education employment by the Department of Education and Training, clearly demonstrate that casual academics are the most numerous, as well as the most exploited, casual employees in higher education. Actual numbers of staff affected are difficult to calculate, as a sessional might teach anything from 2 to 18 hours a week – sometimes more – at up to three different institutions. Considering this, and the respondent numbers for the RMIT survey, our report has focussed on sessional academics.

Academic teaching Twenty per cent taught casually elsewhere, as well as RMIT, in both 2016 and 2015. A third of these taught at three universities in 2016 and about a quarter in 2015. This is an issue for NTEU membership, as members can only join at one institution. Thirty per cent taught in one subject in 2016, though 24 per cent taught in three subjects and 30 per cent in four or more across all workplaces. For staff this often means confusing payslips, as well as multiple supervisors and line managers to deal with. Just over two-thirds taught all or some of the same subjects in 2015, and 77 per cent taught all or some of the same subjects in 2015 and 2014. These academics are clearly competent and experienced teachers, as they are being rehired each semester, which raises the question: why they are not employed on fixed term contracts or permanently?

Income, training and unpaid work Casual academic work was the primary source of income in 2016 for 61 per cent of respondents. Just over half did unpaid work, defined as extra work which was not included in the hourly rate, e.g. subject development, and 77 per cent stated that they were not adequately compensated for additional hours they worked. One respondent stated “I was ‘encouraged’ to create new lecture materials – completely unpaid – because the course assessment changes means that 1 week of lecture was missing.” A quarter stated that they had had no paid training, despite the fact that five hours paid induction is an entitlement in the RMIT Enterprise Agreement.


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Inclusion, job satisfaction It is clear that RMIT casual staff generally feel included and respected in the workplace – 61 per cent feel supported by their colleagues and 51 per cent feel respected professionally. They feel that their input is valued – 88 per cent get satisfaction from their jobs and 92 per cent feel their contribution is valuable – and are as dedicated to the work as any ongoing staff member, but this is in spite of the obstacles caused by casual work. As one respondent wrote: “I received awards, excellent feedback, have excellent colleagues – but I what I would really like to have is a permanent position”. However, these employees do not feel equal to their permanentlyemployed colleagues in other ways: 58 per cent feel excluded from workplace decisions and only 38 per cent feel included in social events. Another respondent wrote “Being on campus ad hoc makes it hard to form relationships”. Most felt that the casual nature of their employment also has a negative impact on work quality, especially teaching: “If I was remunerated better, I could do better work in developing more resources and providing students with more online practice tasks.” More than half (53 per cent) of the casual academics feel exploited and powerless.

Job security and attitudes to casual work Many of the issues identified in this survey correlate with findings of earlier surveys of casual staff. For example, Junor (2004: 284) found that over 80 per cent of casual staff were looking for permanent employment. This finding firmly debunks the persistent myth that casual staff like casual work because of the flexibility. Only 13 per cent of the RMIT respondents felt that the casual work suited their needs, although, on deeper investigation,

this number does not tell the full story; as one respondent wrote: “I love teaching and with 2 kids the part-time nature of the work suits me. However, I often feel undervalued and disposable”. Two-thirds of academics stated that they are actively looking for more secure work. Fifty-seven per cent stated that they are often anxious about job security, and nearly 20 per cent of casual academics stated that they will probably leave the sector if they don’t get secure work soon.

Conclusions These findings should come as no surprise to casual employees in Australian universities or those who have been working to improve job security in recent years. The rise in casualisation is having a demonstrably negative effect on the quality of education, as well as creating an underclass of anxious, exploited academics with diminishing career opportunities. Image: stocking / 123RF Stock Photo

References Higher Education Statistics Collection, 2016. Australian Government, Department of Education and Training. higher-education-statistics Junor, Anne 2004. Casual University Work: Choice, Risk, Inequity and the Case for Regulation. The Economic and Labour Relations Review 14.2: 276–304. Parr, Chris 5 Feb 2015. Best University Workplace Survey 2015: results and analysis. Times Higher Education World University Rankings. https://www.

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It is not so long ago that there were few women in tenured academic positions in Australian universities.

Women are

Worth 100%

Connect // Volume 10, no. 2

The women in the Vice-Chancellors’ and Deans’ offices were most likely to be classified as clerks and secretaries. The woman with decades of continuous service (and probably knew where the bodies were buried) might eventually be classified as a senior secretary. They were all expected to type and take shorthand. Men called secretaries, such as “Council Secretary” did not type, but rather would dictate to their secretary and were paid double her salary. There was no parental leave, paid or unpaid, until the union won it in the 1980s, and equal pay for work of equal value came in during the working life time of the women now retiring. They likely worked when superannuation for married women was optional, and even when there was no permanency for married women. When I started working in a university in the 1990s I was still, albeit illegally, asked when I planned to have children as the interviewer stared at my ring finger!

By Jeannie Rea National President


There are currently women retiring from academic careers who got organised through their unions and campaigned to smash the glass ceiling, which held them at the Senior Tutor classification and in temporary positions. This was the reality even for those with years of experience, and even PhDs when many of the male professors did not have doctorates.

This was not that long ago and times have certainly changed. The sheer numbers of women working in universities has increased along with students, so there are now many more women on university campuses than men. Today the university workforce is rapidly feminising with the female FTE workforce growing at twice the rate of the growth of the male FTE workforce. (DET 2017).

Semester 2, 2017

This is a far cry from the experience of the original ‘Bluestockings’ that battled their way into universities in Australia around the turn of and into the twentieth century. The Bluestockings wanted to go to university to learn and get qualifications to take on the domination of men in the professions. They also wanted to change what was being taught, to challenge the canon, that claimed women’s intellectual inferiority was proven in science, history and philosophy, and that our bodies and minds were too frail to engage in public life. It seems that having the numbers is still not enough as women have to prove themselves on terms framed for men in paid labour and public life. Women still have to fit in. And it does not work as women do have children and this is held against us whether we actually do or do not. Interrupted careers are the expected norm not exception, and sexist stereotypes and expectations leave women with the bulk of unpaid caring work – as well as most of the undervalued caring jobs. So even in higher education where we have had great success on equal pay for equal work, paid parental leave, return to work provisions and other forms of affirmative action, women still find themselves measured against men and found wanting. Different things are still expected from women and men even in the same jobs, and it seems that what the men do gets them promoted. That is why women are not in equal numbers in senior decision making positions. This is why the NTEU Women’s Action Committee (WAC) decided upon the theme of “Worth 100%” for this year’s Bluestocking Week.

women graduate from university into a 3.4 per cent GPG. And this widens out to 9.3 per cent in just three years. When we say women in higher education are Worth 100%, we are talking about more than the GPG. We are saying being a woman should not mean that you are more likely to be in a precarious casual or contract position and less likely to successfully convert that to an ongoing position. And precarious jobs do not have the same conditions as ongoing positions. Worth 100% means women should be able to – walk the campus safe from sexual harassment or assault; speak out in class and in public without incurring sexist abuse; write provocatively without being judged firstly because she is a woman; apply for a job without the interview panel secretly wondering whether she will be a paid parental leave ‘risk’; not be the one always to call out sexism; not be expected to do more marking and more first year teaching and more coordination and student support because ‘women’ are good at that; not to be the last name on the journal article because her contribution was not that important; and it goes on. What is on your list? Join in Bluestocking Week activities on your campus or in your city – contact your local Branch or visit the website Above: NTEU staff Renee and Erin model our new "NTEU Women– Worth 100%" t-shirts, available for purchase from the NTEU Shop for $20 each.

The slogan was coined by the New Zealand public sector union campaigning to close the gender pay gap (GPG). While we still have a gender pay gap across the education sector at 10 per cent (compared to around 17 per cent across the workforce) and the GPG even persists in universities, the GPG is a focus for us too. Something is clearly still wrong across the workforce when

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Australian higher education is big business. In 2015 our universities raised about $29 billion in total revenue from educating more than 1.3 million students, of whom about one-in-five were from overseas. Education earnings from international students are now more than $20 billion, making it Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s third largest export earner. All up, universities spent more than $15 billion on wages, salaries and other benefits and employ more than 200,000 people.

Australian universities'

casual approach

Unfortunately, the Department of Education and Training does not publish data on the number (headcount) of people employed on a casual basis at our universities. However, looking at other data including that published by the Workplace Gender Equity Agency (WGEA), NTEU estimates there to be about four casual employees for each full time equivalent (FTE). Based on this assumption, the latest employment data, as depicted in Figure 1, shows that in 2016 just over one-in-three (36 per cent) of university employees had ongoing or tenured jobs. Casuals now make up by far the largest group of employees, accounting for more than four-in-ten (41 per cent) of all people employed at Australian universities. Another one-in-five (22 per cent) are employed on limited term contracts.

to employment By Paul Kniest National Policy & Research Coordinator

Figure 1 also clearly demonstrates that since 2008 (the year preceding the decision to introduce the demand driven system for Commonwealth Supported Places), the growth in casual employment has outstripped that of both tenured and limited term employment. The number of casual employees grew by 45 per cent between 2008 and 2016 which was about twice that of tenured employees (24 per cent) and employees on limited term contracts (20 per cent). 95,000

DDS Announced

DDS Introduced



74,428 ( 24%)




86,212 ( 45%)

Estimated Casual

59,950 59,404

Limited Term 45,986 ( 20%)




25,000 2008









Figure 1: Number* (Headcount) of Employees in Australian Universities by Contract of Employment, 2008â&#x20AC;&#x201C;2016 * Number of Casual Employees is Estimated Casual FTE multiplied by 4. Source: Department of Education and Training Higher Education Staff Statistics


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Semester 2, 2017

Total 48.7%

Academic General/Professional

While it is safe to conclude that casual employees make up the largest group in terms of the number of people employed at our universities, the following analysis of the changing pattern of employment, and casual employment in particular, is limited to relying on the full time equivalent (FTE) of actual employee statistics. The analysis covers the period 2008 to 2015 (the latest year for which actual casual data is available. Some of the data used is not published but was supplied to NTEU from the Department on request.

Changes in employment In 2015 the Australian university FTE workforce, including actual casual employees, was 124,162 FTE. This was an increase of 22,105 or 21.6 per cent over 2008. Figure 2 shows the composition of the growth in FTE employment, broken down by contract of employment and between academic and general/professional staff, over the same period. The data shows that one-third (33.3 per cent) of all FTE jobs were tenured general/professional staff positions. A further 17.1 per cent and 9.2 per cent were limited term and casual general/professional positions respectively. In other words, general and professional positions accounted for about 60 per cent of all new positions of which more than half were ongoing (tenured). This contrasts with the growth in academic appointments, which in total accounted for about 40 per cent of all new FTEs. The largest contributor to the increase in academic FTE employment were casual positions at 16.7 per cent, followed by tenured (15.4 per cent) and limited term (8.4 per cent) positions. Changes to casual academic employment are examined in more detail below.

Casual academic employment Figure 3 shows the composition of the growth in FTE casual academic employment. The data used has been obtained by NTEU from the Department, and provides academic employment data further broken down by the nature of duties performed – namely teaching only, research only, and teaching and research – as well by gender. As Figure 3 shows, the growth of casual academic employment between 2008 and 2015 was accounted for by teaching only positions. Female casual teaching only FTE positions accounted for 65.3 per cent of the total increase while male casual teaching only FTE positions accounted for 42.5 per cent. By contrast casual research only positions, for both males and females decreased over the period with teaching and research positions remaining almost static. While it will not be a surprise to most readers that the increase in casual academic employment is largely accounted for by female teaching only positions, it should also be noted that almost seven-out-ten (69 per cent) of all new academic positions (casual, limited term and tenured) over the same period were teaching only positions, 42 per cent of that being female and 27 per cent male. In other words, academic employment is not only becoming more casualised, but the move towards casualisation since 2008 also means more specialisation, especially in teaching only roles (perhaps a direct consequence of demand driven funding) and greater feminisation.

Total 25.9%

Total 25.5%







Actual Casual

Limited Term


Figure 2: Contribution to Change in University FTE Workforce, 2008–2015 Source: Dept of Education & Training, Higher Education Staff Statistics

Male Teaching only

Male Research only

Male Teaching & Research




+65.3% Female Teaching only

Female Research only


Female Teaching & Research


Figure 3: Contribution to Change in University Casual Academic FTE Workforce, 2008–2015 Source: Dept of Education & Training, Higher Education Staff Statistics

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Welcome to Casual Corner By Katerin

There’s not much that is casual about this corner

This is a new world of greater contradictions.

Here we dare to speak from a precarious edge

It’s a place where a casual worker’s body is worth less than a fulltime labourer’s.

Sometimes with hope

But wait!

Sometimes with rage

Always with an ‘ethics’ of care

And volunteer our voice, knowledge, and body, without pay or equitable recognition, we must!

A ‘casualised’ academic and professional workforce, is only one of this world’s tactical restructurings, automations, and expansions. Today, we are ALL pushed into teetering on the ledge! So the question is…

Because a culture of silence kills!

Will you, fulltime worker, stand with and stand up for your ‘casualised’ colleague? The left-over ledge upon which livelihoods hang today reveals to us an inequitable world. In such a world, many haves forget we exist

Will you, ‘casualised’ worker, stand with full-time labourers pounded by new contradictions?

Privilege can blind those with

Will you show understanding and empathy for their intensified workload?

Income stability,

Sick leave,

…for their illogical new costings due to selective austerity measures imposed

Annual leave, Maternity/Co-parent leave, Conference perks, Superannuation, Income over holiday breaks... The capacity to plan beyond tomorrow’s shopping list You can see what I mean.

…for their reactionary impulses due to fear of job spills

What will we say or do to each other in this common space?

Is unimpeached symbolic and material bullying behind- the-scenes the answer

or a result of a virus inspired in eerily sleek top-down corporate KPI fetish?

The have-less’s world is chaotic and demoralising at times It’s a place where institutional loyalty

Here teetering on the ever-restructuring edges

We must stop to notice the meeting of the first and third world labourers of the ‘White’ Western university

is worth nothing!

Where RHD qualifications

yield no currency!

Here the most educated cannot claim ignorance

Where outstanding SETS

We must see each other, and understand our shared plight!

may count for shit!

Where credit for joint-community projects

can be stolen!

Where joint research grants

exclude due recognition to all!

We must make a new space where humanity and dignity are worth more than sterile Ikea-esk 63 million dollar hubs How ‘we’ stand, together, on principal, in theory, and in practice, now, and in the future, matters!

We need to fight the divide and conquer strategies,

in solidarity!

Where attendance to lectures, compulsory meetings, and the Christmas party, is not paid.

Where overtime is erased, and if you try to claim it, you become the target of the state.

There’s nothing casual about this new corner.

It’s all a race to a new low.


Connect // Volume 10, no. 2

Break the culture of fear and silence!

By Katerin: ‘casualised’, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, but never fucking blind!

Semester 2, 2017



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Connect 10 02  

Vol. 10, no. 2. NTEU & CAPA magazine for casual and sessional academics in Australian universities.

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