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Uni work becoming more precarious

Posted 23 June 2014 by Jeannie Rea (Uni Casual)

NTEU’s National Conference on Insecure Work is scheduled to be held in Hobart in November 2014. There will be opportunities to connect remotely to the conference sessions. The focus is upon academic casuals, research contractors and soft money contracts, and needlessly casualised positions. 

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, now only one in two staff (on a full time equivalent (FTE) basis) employed at Australian universities have secure employment (see Fig. 1).

The level of precarious work is further revealed by the type of work (see Fig. 2). Over 90% of those employed in ‘teaching only’ positions are casual (80.3%) or limited term contract (10.2%). Over the past few years, the plight of casually employed teaching academics has been exposed along with the consequences for the maintenance of quality education and loss of opportunities for innovation, let alone the squandering of the next generation of academics’ careers.

However, what is not so well known is that almost 90% of ‘research only’ academics are also precariously employed. Whilst less than 10% are casual, almost 80% are on limited term contracts. 

There are researchers who have been on limited term contracts for decades, but alongside more securely employed colleagues. There has been an expansion in ‘research only’ positions over the past decade – but almost exclusively in limited term positions. The consequences for career and research development are dire.

And almost 40% of general/professional FTE positions are contract or casual. Too many staff are on continual slightly changing casual contracts and others on limited term contracts paid against ‘soft money’ projects.

This analysis by the NTEU is based upon the data from the Commonwealth Department of Education.  It reveals that the level of precarious work in universities is higher than the Australian workforce average.  

And it confirms why the NTEU’s National Conference on Insecure Work is so important.  Watch the NTEU and Unicasual websites for details. 

Jeannie Rea, National President

(8 MB) - PDF

Advocate, June 2014


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