Welcome to UniCasual, a workplace information portal for Australian casual academic staff.
Produced by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) this site contains details about your workplace rights, your obligations and those of your employers, and information on how NTEU can assist you. This website aims to help you find out what you need to know to survive as a casual, and provides practical tips as well as introductions to NTEU and CAPA.
To find your local NTEU Branch, click here.
Welcome to a new section of Connect, highlighting amazing campaigns being conducted by higher education trade unions, professional associations and activist organisations around the world. Here is a snapshot of what’s happening in 2014.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) flagship national campaign is Fair Employment Week, held at the end of October each year. For Fair Employment Week 2013, CAUT created a designated website (www.fairemploymentweek.ca), containing various campaign resources and an open letter to university and college presidents calling for an end to the casualisation and exploitation of academic staff in Canada. This year, CAUT aims to hold a number of town hall events during Fair Employment Week across the country.
Fair Employment Week allows CAUT and its member associations to join with a coalition of unions and activists across North America to organise events to highlight the overuse and exploitation of contract academic staff. From using petitions and posters, to handing out peanuts, academic staff associations have used a variety of creative tactics to inform students, colleagues and the public about the prevalence and working conditions of academics in contingent appointments, who have lower pay, less job security and fewer rights than their tenure-track colleagues, and to advocate for improving those
Hello Casuals and Postgrads. As we enter Semester Two, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is actively responding to the Federal Budget with a national campaign that targets the Senate as well as universities – and we would love to see you get involved.
A number of decisions made in the 2014-15 Federal Budget will have a profound effect on the postgraduate and casual community. The response by CAPA to the Federal Budget focused on a range of issues including the equity ‘grants’ that students will foot the bill for themselves, as well as the 6 per cent interest rate which will slam students who continue on to postgraduate study, pricing them out of HELP repayment for several years as their debt grows. But it is the cut of $173 million to the Research Training Scheme, and the decision to allow universities to charge PhD and Masters by Research students HELP fees for the first time, that has rocked the postgraduate community the
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has been quoted saying how Australia has much to learn from the US when it comes to higher education, about ‘student choice, competition and a culture of philanthropy’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2014). Just how this might look for academic staff in Australia, who are already subject to high levels of job insecurity, was unsurprisingly not part of the Education Minister’s glowing recommendations.
A quick look at how academic staff are faring in the US gives little comfort for what Pyne’s vision might look like for employment in the sector. Whilst the US higher education system is a complex mix of public and private providers, state based universities and high status research intense universities, and not directly comparable with Australia, what stands out is the very heavy reliance on insecurely employed academic staff.
This last midwinter conference season, we saw again that Australian higher education likes to hold major professional development and networking events while remaining silent on the existence of the majority of its academic workforce. What should academic casuals do: wait to be invited in?
We started the CASA blog at the beginning of this year as an ‘online home for casual, adjunct, sessional staff and their allies’ in response to silences like this. Firstly we wanted to come up with a way to have the conversations that were left off the agenda: overlooking the large and increasing contribution of casual academic workers to Australian higher education is to the detriment of the entire sector. For example, to talk about the first year university experience without putting casuals front and centre is to miss the elephant in that particular kitchen by quite some
When I was first approached to write this article for Connect, I felt compelled to present a stats-ridden view of why thinking about alternative academic (alt-ac) pathways was not only possible, but necessary.
What I’ve ended up writing, though, is what I wish I’d been told about alt-ac career paths when I was at various job decision points in my life.
While stats can be good to give an overview of the sector, they don’t help when it comes to making highly personal and contextualised decisions about what you choose to do.
I have been to and fro several times between being an academic and professional administrative staff. Some of those jobs were by choice, and some were forced by circumstance. A continuing academic position is often thought of as the traditional ‘destination’ for a PhD student. It varies from discipline to discipline, with some – like those in engineering - particularly bemused by many disciplines’ dependency on the academy for a
Despite the Coalition’s promises to the contrary prior to the 2013 Federal Election, the 2014-15 Federal Budget presented some of the most dramatic changes to higher education in over a generation. It also laid a blue print for a fundamentally different approach to social investment and welfare. Public spending in many traditional areas has been slashed and community organisations, charities, families and individuals are scrambling to fill the void. While these changes will affect most people in some way or other, casual workers at Australian universities will face particularly challenging circumstances.
For casuals who are combining work with study at the undergraduate level, the announcements will see government funding for courses cut by 20 per cent, the deregulation of university fees and for the first time, the charging of market interest rates on outstanding
Considerable pre-Budget speculation neither predicted the cuts to the Research Training Scheme (RTS), nor the introduction of up to $3900 in fees for research training. So what do these changes mean for Australian higher education? And what do they mean for you?
What was announced in the Budget?
The Abbott Government declared universities will be able to charge Higher Degree Research (HDR) students an annual fee of up to $3900 (for a high cost degree), and $1,700 (for a low cost degree). The quantum of funding dedicated to the Research Training Scheme (RTS) is being reduced by 10 per cent (or about $174 million) because universities will have the ability to collect revenue through student contributions. Though unlikely, universities have the discretion not to charge fees.
When will this reform start?
Both measures come into effect on 1 January 2016.
I was very fortunate to be invited to attend and to present my research on academic casualisation in Australia at the 41st Annual Conference on Collective Bargaining in Higher Education, hosted by the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions (NCSCBHEP) at City University New York in April.
The NCSCBHEP is a joint labour and management centre focussed on the study and promotion of collective bargaining as a means for advancing the working conditions of staff in higher education in the US. The enormous diversity of higher education means that particularly for union representatives the opportunity to exchange ideas about developments in collective arrangements is extremely
It’s something I’ve always done’ isn’t really a sufficient answer from a sociologist, so I’ll reflect and attempt to uncover the reasons for my engagement with unionism ...
The Commonwealth Department of Education recently released the university workforce data for 2012. This data, collected from the universities, reveals that since 2005 only one in four (24%) new jobs at Australian universities has been an ongoing or continuing job.
Three out of four have been contract or casual. Consequently, only one in two staff (on a full time equivalent (FTE) basis) employed at Australian universities now have secure employment (see Fig. 1). This means that the proportion of insecure workers in universities is much higher than the national