Unions to give evidence at Newcastle Senate hearing on job security

National Tertiary Education Union

NTEU members will today detail the devastating impact of rampant casualisation at Australian universities when they give evidence to the Senate Select Committee on Job Security sitting in Newcastle.

The Select Committee is investigating the impact of insecure or precarious employment on the economy, wages, social cohesion and workplace rights and conditions.

NTEU member at the University of Newcastle Dr Chloe Killen, who will be speaking at today’s hearing, said insecure work deprives casual staff of financial security and the ability to plan their lives.

“The constant stress and pressure affects every aspect of my life,” Dr Killen said.

“From having to squirrel money away every year to cover the three months of unemployment I face from November to February, to continually having to advocate to be paid appropriately, to the never-ending fear and worry that I may not have work next month, next semester, next year.”

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said it is beyond time the proliferation of insecure employment in universities is meaningfully addressed.

“Only one in three people employed by Australian universities enjoys secure ongoing work,” Dr Barnes said.

“The pandemic has exposed the disastrous consequences of Australian universities over-reliance on casual staff.

“Over the past 12 months, 35,000 workers at public universities have lost their jobs.

“This is a result of completely inadequate government funding and appalling university management practices, and the losers are Australia’s students, the public, staff and the institutions themselves.”

“Widespread casualisation creates the conditions for wage theft and implements huge barriers for casual staff in reporting exploitation.

“University managements have allowed wage theft to become integrated into their business models and attempted to avoid scrutiny through a total lack of transparency and it must end now.

“I thank the casual NTEU members who have been working hard to secure the recovery of the higher education sector and improve conditions for staff and students by giving important evidence to the Committee.”

NTEU NSW Division Secretary Damien Cahill said the Federal Government needs to show all staff, but especially casual staff the respect they deserve.

“The Select Committee on Job Security has already made a number of recommendations the Morrison Government has so far ignored.

“They include developing a new Higher Education Funding Strategy, providing temporary additional funding to universities to restore jobs and rectify the damage inflicted upon the sector as a result of the pandemic and funding cuts, as well as working with the NTEU to design a system of casual and fixed-term conversion appropriate for the sector.

“The Federal Government can no longer sit idly and ignore the tens of thousands of staff and millions of Australian students who rely or will rely on our tertiary education sector.

“If there is no government intervention, Vice Chancellors will only continue to deny the over reliance on casual staff is a problem.

“But casualisation is a deliberate strategy implemented by university managements to minimise costs through not paying for the full suite of academic work casualised staff perform.

“It is also a way to minimise financial risk for universities by shifting the risk on to individual staff.

“Those staff are often exploited, lack financial security, miss out on key opportunities for career development and their mental and physical health suffers as a result.

“Giving casual staff ongoing work with greater security and employment rights would be good for them, good for students and good for the entire country.”

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