Secure work = Better Futures.

It’s hard to think about planning courses, furthering your career, or to truly feel like a valued member of the team when you’re wondering whether you’ll even have a job in a month or a year’s time.

It’s hard to be a ‘good team member’ when you aren’t invited to meetings or provided with space within a department to work in, you may not have an email address, or even know exactly who you report to.

It’s hard to speak up and take action when you are worried that even having your basic rights met as a worker might cost you your job or your next job.

Yet that is the reality for thousands of working people in New Zealand’s tertiary education sector who are on fixed-term, casual and hourly agreements in universities, wānanga and ITPs.

This is insecure, precarious, or as one TEU member and contributor to this edition of Tertiary Update puts it, ‘disposable’ work. Employers in the New Zealand tertiary education sector are using casual and temporary appointments to run classes, laboratories, administration units, student management systems, libraries, and workshops every day.

Recent OIA requests reveal that in 2018 there were 822 fixed-term agreements at one university alone, out of total of some 3500 employees. This pattern is repeated across the sector.

Around the world we have seen good jobs with security being replaced by fixed-term or casual employment. Workers are subject to unstable employment, lower wages, and often more dangerous working conditions. Even with the right to unionise, working people are often scared of ‘rocking the boat’ if they know they are easily replaceable.

Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union estimates about 68% of the current university workforce is insecurely employed.

CTU research in 2013 indicated that one third of New Zealand workers are in insecure jobs.

Insecure work impacts on the wellbeing of working people, on their ability to plan for the future, their work-life balance, and their ability to provide for their families. Insecurity can also be an isolating experience for those worrying about their future, and unsure of the best way to progress in their career when the future seems so uncertain.

It’s only by working collectively that can we can make a change. Working people who have jobs without a secure future don’t have to go it alone.

If you are:

  • on a fixed-term, casual, or hourly agreement;
  • uncertain of the permanence of your employment;
  • unsure of how to further your career when you don’t know if you will have a job in a year or a month’s time; and,
  • if you are unsure of who to speak to or are not confident raising your concerns with your supervisor

then contact a TEU organiser.

Working together we can turn this around. We have run successful campaigns to turn fixed-term jobs into permanent jobs. We have worked with casual/hourly paid employees to ensure they are getting their entitlements to things like sick leave, holiday pay and rights to professional development and annual wage and salary increases.

It’s only by working in union that we can ensure that every worker knows their rights and is confident and able to act on them.

In this week’s Tertiary Update, we speak with TEU members about the impact of insecure work on their personal wellbeing, career progression, and the impact insecurity has on their families and future. We also speak to members about the importance of securing permanent work, of organising and advocating for positive change and the impact permanence and security has on individuals and families.

Secure Work = Better Futures

Dr Kevin Veale, lecturer in the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University discusses the impact of insecurity on his ability to plan, on career progression, and what the tertiary education sector gains from worker security.

Dr Leon Salter, TEU member and tutor in both the School of English and Media Studies and School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University discusses the impact of insecure work on personal and family life and the isolating effects of insecurity.

A TEU member and lecturer of nursing in the Whitireia School of Health shares the experience of moving to a permanent agreement and the importance of taking action to achieve security in tertiary education.

We speak with organisers Heather Warren and Phil Edwards about the importance of organising and raising awareness around insecure work.

TEU member Emily Brown, lecturer at the Universal College of Learning shares with us her experience of insecure work and the importance of her recently securing a permanent agreement.

We look at the opportunities the recent reform of vocational education provides for ensuring secure work in tertiary education.

Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union shares data on insecurity across the ditch and on the importance of campaigning for change