NTEU members scored a huge win in the FairWork Commission today. The commission ordered re-instatement and compensation for a union member sacked for failing to meet unrealistic Faculty publication benchmarks.
NTEU members have been arguing that the current trend towards benchmarking has led to a range of unfair and unrealistic performance expectations in excess of agreed workload guidelines. In particular members have argued that it is unfair to set A/A* publication benchmarks, because whether and when a journal decides to publish depends on a range of factors not related to the quality of the submission and so out the staff member’s control. The Commission expressly backed the NTEU position on this point.
This is a huge win that we hope will have widespread ramifications in the sector. Over the past 5-10 years workloads have ballooned in higher education and there has been a trend towards heavy-handed, corporate-style performance management. A key part of this trend has been the use of performance benchmarks to set expected research outputs. The benchmarks are invariably set at levels widely considered unachievable by most staff. They are then used to target staff selectively for performance management, sometimes ending in termination.
The problem is particularly bad in Business schools, where this decision originated. Various accreditation requirements have seen excessively high publication benchmarks set in a rigid set of journals. With every Business school in the world seeking accreditation, these journals are being flooded with submissions from academic staff looking to meet the new expectations. The result is even higher rejection rates making the setting of the benchmarks even more unrealistic.
NTEU reps will be working through the full decision in the coming days and planning to ensure its findings are implemented across the sector.
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