The university branch of the National Tertiary Education Union opens enterprise bargaining negotiations with a demand for 80 per cent of staff to have continuing employment, by the end of 2024, “not casual, not periodic, and not fixed term. Secure, ongoing employment.”
“There is nothing casual about being a casual at a university. Some staff have been teaching the same subjects for 15 plus years, reapplying every few months for the same job, year after year,” the union states.
The comrades are correct. In a test case this year, Flinders U casual academic Toby Priest demonstrated that he had worked 11 straight semesters “in a predictable and on-going fashion”, one of the things that the Fair Work Commission requires for casual conversion.
But FWC knocked him back on the grounds that converting him to continuing employment would mean “a significant adjustment” for the university – which leaves enterprise agreements as the only path (CMM May 16)
Hence the NTEU’s Monash U move. It follow their colleagues at Western Sydney U, who negotiated the creation of 154 continuing academic jobs for current casuals in the new agreement to be put to staff for approval (CMM July 26).
But including casual conversion in enterprise agreements may not be the only way to help long serving casuals doing the same job year after year. The government’s “Secure Jobs, Better Pay” bill proposes prohibiting third fixed term contracts for employees who have previously had two consecutive contacts for the same/similar work.