Stephanie Turner – insecure work in the quake’s aftermath

Posted By TEU on Aug 1, 2013 |

“After the earthquakes we were quite worried about job security because of falling student numbers.”

As Stephanie Turner knows, when jobs are threatened, people in insecure work are the first to go.

“Even though my job was ‘permanent part-time’ I was aware when it comes to job losses that there are the casuals, and then next in line is the permanent part-time positions.”

Stephanie Turner is a tutor at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) teaching English to migrants and refugees. She started in 2001 in a fixed-term position with variable hours. Each year she got a letter saying, “Thank you, goodbye”. Then a new fixed-term agreement would turn up the following year.

After five years of these revolving agreements, the polytechnic created a new type of job, which it called ‘permanent part-time’.

CPIT offered six or seven of these positions. At the time, Stephanie had about a dozen colleagues on fixed-term agreements and they had to compete with each other for the jobs. However w Stephanie successfully got one of these jobs she quickly learnt it was only one step up from the casual positions that she had previously held.

Unlike truly permanent tutors, Stephanie and her newly permanent part-time colleagues were paid hourly and limited to teaching 412 hours a year. There were minimal sick leave and pd provisions and no opportunities to advance to senior tutor positions. Because Stephanie was paid hourly, once the academic year finished she had a space of eight to 10 weeks during December to February, when there was no teaching and thus no pay.

“Luckily I have a partner who is working full-time, but there were single mothers who found it really hard. They had to plan to get through that summer period.”

“Some of us talked about the dole but, with the stand-down period, it wasn’t really worth it.”

Stephanie and her permanent part-time colleagues did exactly the same work as their truly permanent colleagues on salaries; including course and assessment design. Over time expectations grew that they attend staff meetings, put in extra hours to relieve for tutors who were away, and step into positions of responsibility temporarily, all within their allotted 412 hours per year.

A little more than a decade after she first started working for CPIT Stephanie now has the job security of a permanent position. However, she still has several colleagues in ‘permanent part-time’ jobs, working for an hourly rate while others around them get a salary.

“It’s not really enough to live on, it creates ill-feeling,” Stephanie says.

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