The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has written to Australian Vice Chancellors urging them to protect workers’ rights and mount a joint campaign against racism on campus amid concern about the impacts of Coronavirus on the tertiary sector.
The Union has sought a commitment that casual staff will not suffer reduced income in the event of deferred semesters, cut shifts and closed campuses.
“The protection of human health and public safety must be the primary concern, but this has underscored how vulnerable our sector is as a result of significant Commonwealth funding cuts, over-reliance on international student income and the spread of insecure work,” said NTEU National President Alison Barnes.
“We’ve written to university Vice Chancellors, asking them to agree that those casuals who would normally be working from day 1 of semester will not be worse off as a result of timetable changes due to Coronavirus.”
“Many of our casual members have not had work since well before Christmas. The prospect of cut shifts due to disrupted teaching timetables will mean they can’t pay their bills and put food on the table.”
The Union has also urged universities to properly support those staff who have been directed to move teaching to “online only” delivery in the event that in-person teaching on campus is suspended or deferred.
“We’ve had reports where academics have been given mere days to move their entire curriculum to ‘online delivery only’. It’s unrealistic, and it’s putting huge pressure on staff.”
“This has shone the spotlight on some serious challenges for our sector in terms of the need for new funding and more secure work.”