A memorandum sent to staff at Massey University outlines plans to cut all casual staff expenditure for the remainder of 2020 in the College of Science. It comes in the wake of the Massey Business School slashing their casual budget by 50%. This is cause for great concern as it erodes quality teaching and undermines all workers and their ability to do their jobs.

The rash move by Massey signals that the sector has become reliant on workers who are on fixed and casual appointments. And is devastating for all vulnerable workers notably Māori, Pasifika, students and people with families. This move highlights the unequal effects of job cuts and austerity measures, with the greatest impact falling on those least able to afford it.

University of Otago staff member and TEU Council Member Joshua James has called out Massey stating “Cuts to the casual staffing levels at the College of Sciences is a blow to those who rely on casual roles to make ends meet, it is a disservice to students, and the academic and research community and will affect all of those who are trying to begin a career in the tertiary sector, including PhD candidates”

It also signals the depth of funding problems in the sector which have been aggravated by COVID-19. Students have been treated like cash cows with a heavy reliance on international students and Massey’s memo shows how fragile the systems of funding and expenditure are.

There are also growing concerns that staff workloads with grow exponentially and stress will rise to a breaking point. Who will do the work and fill the gap left behind when casual staff are cut? And what kind of erosion of quality education in the sector do these cuts to the workforce highlight?

James goes further stating “the government has been quite clear: tertiary institutions, like all other employers must look after their workers.”

Massey’s announcement is a blow for all workers in the sector. Cuts undermine all the good work of everyone in the sector. Our communities need reassurance that quality education is a priority not just during the crisis but in the future. In response TEU is calling for a national hui to address the effects of COVID-19, and for all tertiary institutions to act as collaborative partners in the national recovery.