NTEU urges Federal Government to implement job security recommendations

National Tertiary Education Union

The NTEU is urging the Federal Government to implement recommendations by the Select Committee on Job Security to secure the recovery of the higher education sector and improve conditions for staff and students.

The Second interim report: insecurity in publicly-funded jobs makes a number of welcome recommendations including that:

  • The Australian Government urgently develops a new National Higher Education Funding Strategy for the period 2021-2025
  • The Australian Government provides temporary additional funding to universities to restore jobs and rectify the damage inflicted upon the sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and funding cuts, until the new Higher Education Strategy has been developed and implemented
  • The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment works closely with universities, workers, experts, the NTEU, and relevant sector bodies, to design a system of casual and fixed-term conversion that would be appropriate for the higher education sector
  • The Australian Government requires all universities to provide a more detailed report of their staffing composition to the Department of Education
  • In light of the widespread wage theft in The Australian Government-funded higher education sector, that the government legislates improved rights of entry for all registered trade unions

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said the recommendations must be adopted as a matter of urgency.

“The Federal Government can no longer ignore the widespread destruction inflicted on tertiary education by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Barnes said.

“We have seen 40,000 jobs lost across the country, with an estimated 35,000 of those at public universities.

“If the Federal Government cares about higher education, it must develop a new National Higher Education Funding Strategy and provide urgent additional funding until this is in place.

“As the report outlines, this must recognise and address the real cost of delivering high quality tertiary education including administration, marking and ensuring staff and student wellbeing, as well as the role of research as a core university function.

“Further, designing a system of casual and fixed-term conversion appropriate for the higher education sector will be key to addressing the proliferation of insecure employment.

“The Federal Government’s casual conversion laws have proven to be completely ineffective in dealing with insecure employment in universities.

“The laws have simply provided employers with an excuse to avoid serious and genuine efforts to address the growing casualisation of their workforces.

“As has been proven this year, widespread casualisation of tertiary education creates the conditions for wage theft and implements huge barriers to them reporting this exploitation.

“Wage theft has deep human consequences, robbing modestly paid casual workers of the income to pay bills, plan for their future or take leave.

“Universities have allowed wage theft to become integrated into their business models and attempted to avoid scrutiny through a total lack of transparency.

“Forcing universities to detail their use of insecure employment is vital to ending this.

“The second interim report’s recommendations must be implemented by the Federal Government as a priority.

“The success and wellbeing of academics, staff and students depends on it.

“We thank the committee for its thorough work on this important inquiry, and in particular recognise the support of Senators Tony Sheldon and Mehreen Faruqi in their advocacy for higher education workers

“We also congratulate the casual NTEU members who gave important evidence to the Inquiry by detailing their experience.”

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