NTEU calls on UC to release report on controversial Assistant Professor Scheme

1 November 2019: The NTEU calls on the University of Canberra to release the full report of the Independent Review of the Contingent Continuing Employment, or Assistant Professor Scheme. The University is obliged under its Enterprise Agreement to release the findings of the Review, and to implement the accepted recommendations.

The Review was announced by Vice-Chancellor Professor Deep Saini on 19 December 2018. Now, almost a year since the initial announcement, the Vice-Chancellor has announced that he has now received the report prepared by the Review panel. The Vice-Chancellor has announced that the report contains four primary recommendations, and twelve secondary recommendations for the university to consider. The University has thus far declined to release the report, or the recommendations.

The Assistant Professor Scheme has had profoundly negative consequences for many of those who have been employed in this manner (see Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News). It has also been the subject of a ‘Notice of Hazard’ report, which raised serious questions about the work health and safety implications of the scheme. Earlier this year, the NTEU made a submission to the Review which outlined serious concerns about its design and implementation, including work health and safety concerns (see NTEU).

For current Assistant Professors, it is crucial that the recommendations are released immediately. As part of recent Enterprise Bargaining negotiations, UC agreed to an ‘opt-out’ period for Assistant Professors. The closing date for opting out is 3 January 2020. We have members among the Assistant Professor cohort who are awaiting this report and its recommendations before making important decisions on their future.

We are pleased that the Vice-Chancellor has committed to “move forward with the implementation of the report before I leave UC at the end of this year”. Our members have raised concerns, however, about a lack of transparency and the University’s willingness to accept the recommendations of the Review. Staff need to know what the Review contains now, so that there can be an open and transparent University-wide discussion on how and when the recommendations can be implemented.

As noted by NTEU ACT Division Secretary Dr Cathy Day:

“Our members have asked what UC has to gain by withholding the release of the report. There are genuine concerns about what the University might be trying to hide. The University has obligations to release the findings, and to implement the accepted recommendations of the Review. Our members are concerned that UC may attempt to shirk their responsibility by refusing to accept all of the recommendations. We call on the University to allay their concerns by making the full report public to allow discussion of the recommendations.”

As noted by NTEU UC Branch President Dr Craig Applegate:

“It is important for current Assistant Professors to have all relevant information available to them so that they can make informed decisions about their future. The opt-out date is only a few working weeks away. This is also an important topic on campus that all staff, including those who have progressed through the Assistant Professor Scheme and those who have opted out, as well as mentors of Assistant Professors, should be given the opportunity to contribute to.”

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