More than half of tertiary teaching done by casuals

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) will use a forthcoming higher education enterprise bargaining round to call for the creation of 2,000 new ongoing jobs for casual academics, as well as a 28% pay rise for all staff over the next four years.

The union says it will also seek to better regulate escalating workloads and improve conditions and career advancement for non-academic professional staff.

The plans to force universities to offer more permanent positions for casual academics follow the release last month of the results of a national survey of casuals. The survey revealed what had long been known: thousands of casual academics are struggling to make a living and do their work with the resources they are given.

NTEU National President Jennie Rea said the findings from the survey were “extremely alarming” with significant numbers of casuals struggling to earn a decent income. Many of the respondents had had more than one appointment during the survey period while some were working part-time at four different universities.

Echoing the results of the May survey, Rea noted that more than half of all academic teaching in Australian universities was undertaken “by people paid by the hour”. She described the growth of casualisation as “the dirty secret of Australian higher education” that was threatening to undermine the quality of the higher education system.

“We intend to use the upcoming enterprise bargaining round to call time on this,” Rea said.

“A key feature of the log of claims the union will be serving on all universities is the creation of 2,000 new ongoing jobs to substantially and to permanently reduce the unacceptably high level of casual academic employment.”

She said the 2,000 number represented around 20% of academic casuals working in universities, based on the government’s own figures. The union wanted the institutions to provide opportunities for career advancement for younger academics who at present were locked out of the system.

Other claims include:
  • • Enforceable regulation of academic and professional staff workloads.
  • • A 7% per annum flat annual salary increase over four years. This was to compensate for cost of living increases and productivity gains and to maintain domestic and international competitiveness.
  • • Improving career progression and classification procedures for professional staff – in recognition of the increasing amount and complexity of work they faced.
  • • Further increases in indigenous employment “based on binding indigenous employment strategies and targets”.
“Work intensification is a growing problem for academic and professional staff across the sector,” Rea said. “The clearest indication of this has been the growth in the number of students attending university.

“We understand that the financial health of individual institutions differs across the higher education sector but we believe that not only can universities choose to meet these claims, it is in their interests to do so to ensure their most valuable resource, their staff, get the respect, recognition and reward they deserve.”