A survey of nearly 2000 TEU members shows insecure work, casual and fixed-term employment agreements are widespread in tertiary education. One in six respondents said they were currently in an insecure, casual or fixed-term position, and a further one-third said they had been in such a position in the past.
TEU national president Lesley Francey, who undertook the survey, said employees in casual or insecure work such as fixed-term employment normally have fewer work rights. Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed in insecure work want permanent employment and the rights that come with it.
Lesley Francey says that s66 of the Employment Relations Act is clear that employers are only allowed to employ people in fixed-term positions for specific reasons. She is doubtful that employers are sticking to those reasons and is concerned that all they are trying to do is save money instead. Also, the misuse of casual employment positions means that many employees are not able to move into permanent positions.
The law makes it clear that there needs to be a genuine reason for fixed-term jobs. Fixed term jobs cannot be used to trial a person, to encourage a person to undertake training or pursue higher qualifications, or to limit someone’s legal employment rights (such as their right to holidays or other leave).
In some TEU collective agreements we have negotiated limiting the use of fixed-term agreements for reasons such as; relieving for a substantive position where the incumbent is on approved leave, filling a vacancy pending permanent appointment, including emergency relief positions, undertaking a finite task for a period not exceeding two years, or to trial a new course for a period not exceeding two years.
More than one-third of the survey respondents currently in non-permanent employment said they have worked at their institution for over five years.
That shows, says Lesley Francey, that many of them are entrenched in insecure work.
“They are moving from one fixed-term agreement to the next – often teaching the same course or doing the same job year-in, year-out.”