Senators slam universities over casuals

Universities reliance on casual staff has, “pervasive individual and communal” consequences, the Senate Select Committee on Job Security warns

The committee’s second interim report reflects its hearings in extensively addressing the experiences of casually employed university staff, notably academics, and warns;

“it is difficult to conceive of how the sector will continue to remain competitive and to maintain a standard of excellence in educational quality when a large portion of its staff are subject to insecure working arrangements with such pervasive individual and communal consequences.”

And whose fault is the problem, pray? “It is the committee’s view that there have been insufficient efforts by government, universities and industry bodies to address the underlying systemic causes for the prevalence of insecure work in the sector.”

The report also expresses the committee’s thanks to the National Tertiary Education Union “for its comprehensive submission.”

Committee recommendations include,

* the government work with “universities, workers, experts, the National Tertiary Education Union, and relevant sector bodies,” to “design a system of casual and fixed-term conversion that would be appropriate for the higher education sector”

* universities be required to provide annual data on permanent, fixed term and casual staff numbers by head count, as well as FTE

* make public funding for universities contingent on their setting and reporting on targets for increasing permanent and reducing casual employment

* “in light of the widespread wage theft in the Australian Government-funded higher education sector,” improved and legislated” rights of entry for registered trade unions to inspect staff records.

The committee is chaired by Tony Sheldon (Labor, NSW). Deputy chair is Matthew Canavan (Nationals, Queensland) with members Mehreen Faruqi (Greens, NSW), Ben Small (Liberal, SA) and Jess Walsh (Labor NSW).

Have university managements no friends in politics? Perhaps not.