Two thirds of Australian tertiary workers lack on-going jobs

Posted By TEU on Feb 16, 2012 |

Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 3

An Australian inquiry into casual employment has just heard from a Brisbane academic who has not had paid annual leave since 1995.

University academic Marianne Treuen told the inquest she was forced to work at several universities around southeast Queensland just to make ends meet and during holiday periods she had no income at all.

“My husband supports me. Isn’t that a terrible thing to say?” she said. “But that’s what it comes down to.”

The nationwide public hearings at which Ms Treuen appeared are part of an inquiry into insecure work, chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, which is investigating the growth of insecure jobs, and how it affects people’s lives and communities right across the country. Mr Howe said 40 percent of Australian workers were working in insecure jobs and it was important they were able to tell their story, as part of the means to identify possible solutions.

Jeannie Rea, president of the Australian Tertiary Education Union NTEU says the tertiary education sector is characterised by one of the highest levels of precarious employment in Australia.

Less than 36 percent of all university employees have continuing employment and the figure for “all employees” already excludes those employed on an ad hoc or occasional basis.

“Taking one small part of the problem as an example, there are probably eight to ten thousand casual teaching employees with PhDs earning $10,000 to $25,000 a year in precarious teaching-only employment. This is a waste of human talent and of the public resources which have gone into their education,” said Ms Rea.

NTEU is recommending to the inquiry, among other things, that the Australian federal government should create a public policy regime that encourages tertiary education institutions to meet minimum standards of decent employment and educational quality. It also wants the government to limit Non-Standard Employment through the use of clear and enforceable definitions and limits on the use on all forms of precarious employment.

In New Zealand TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey says there is anecdotal evidence that casual labour is also endemic in our tertiary institutions.

“We strongly suspect the problem is widespread here too. TEU is looking to undertake a significant research project to expose what is happening and what casual workers need to guarantee them fair employment conditions.”

If you have a story to tell about casual or insecure tertiary education work, here in New Zealand, let us know.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. SSC to stamp out 2+ percent pay-rises
  2. English called for less bureaucracy. Then along came Joyce.
  3. Challenge for unions to defend academia
  4. More polytechnic students
  5. $8000 for each star?
  6. Competition winners

Other news

Scotland has a unique advantage for a small nation of five million in having at least five world-class universities – more in the top 200 even than France – and one of the best educated workforces in the world. Scotland’s universities have never been regarded as mere education factories – they have a distinct egalitarian, or equalitarian tradition, summed up in that much-misunderstood phrase, the “democratic intellect” – the Herald Scotland

“The National government will continue to invest heavily in tertiary students as the world enters into a skills race.” – Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Steven Joyce to students last week.

Photos of TEU members at the NorthTec stop-work meeting and at a rally at the New Lynn train station supporting workers caught in the Port of Auckland dispute.

A 4 percent increase in the latest round of offers at Australian universities will place overstretched teaching staff under more strain and lower the quality of education for ballooning student ranks, NTEU has warned. Under the government’s new “demand-driven system”, universities will receive funding for as many students as they can enrol. Previously, the government regulated the number of places – the Conversation

Authorised by Sharn Riggs, Tertiary Education Union, 8th Floor, Education House 178-182 Willis St, Wellington 6011.

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day.

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