NTEU members at the University of Newcastle are striking today, over stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations. One of the big issues at UniNewcastle is the university’s use of casual and contract staff. “We have heard from a significant number of staff who have been employed on annual contracts for 10, 15, and even 20 years, with annual cycles of insecurity about work the following year. … And the situation for casual staff – including professional, academics, and teachers – is even more precarious.” National Tertiary Education Union branch president Tom Griffiths says.
It’s also an issue at UTS, which held its annual professional development for casual academic staff last week, providing advice and information on intellectual infrastructure available for teachers. This makes sense for the university, which relies on casual teaching staff – on 2016 DET figures just over half the university academic FTE are casuals.
However, it feeds into the union’s campaign to improve conditions, including paths to permanent employment, for them. “UTS presents the casual conference with an expectation that casual academic staff both keep up to date with teaching technologies and continually provide higher quality student feedback, but the human cost of precarious employment – to both staff and students – is massive,” National Tertiary Education Union branch president Vince Caughley says.