Union says casual work unpaid and unacknowledged must stop

University managers want a workforce that is dependable but disposable,” says Alison Barnes, federal president of the National Tertiary Education Union. She isn’t having it

Dr Barnes, federal president of the National Tertiary Education Union, signals that the conditions of casual university staff will be a big issue in the enterprise bargaining round about to begin. In a weekend speech to the Industrial Relations Society of NSW she warned that 95 000 university staff are on casual contracts and that, “it is normal for academics in these arrangements to subsist on only a few hundred dollars per week despite being constantly on-call and busy with preparation, staff meetings and student emails, most of which goes unpaid and unacknowledged.”

“This is not casual work, it is on-going work performed in perpetuity.”

“This state of affairs is not acceptable and we will be aggressively pursuing significant increases in job security for our members in the current round of enterprise bargaining with universities,” she said.

Dr Barnes also rejected claims (CMM April 26 for example) that new legislation allows for casual employees who meet tests of regular employment in the same roles within a specific period to secure conversion to continuing positions. She argued that managements can reject applications it does not deem reasonable.

“In my sector, given the specific nature of the casual contracts used by managements for academic employment, it is expected that these changes will be of no benefit, and it is possible that the changes will result in less secure employment overall by leaving our sector without a workable conversion mechanism at the national level and entrenching the casualisation of work.”