Two Thirds Of Australian Tertiary Workers Lack On-Going Jobs

Press Release – Tertiary Education Union

An Australian inquiry into casual employment has just heard from a Brisbane academic who has not had paid annual leave since 1995 . University academic Marianne Treuen told the inquest she was forced to work at several universities around southeast …An Australian inquiry into casual employment has just heard from a Brisbane academic who has not had paid annual leave since 1995.

University academic Marianne Treuen told the inquest she was forced to work at several universities around southeast Queensland just to make ends meet and during holiday periods she had no income at all.

“My husband supports me. Isn’t that a terrible thing to say?” she said. “But that’s what it comes down to.”

The nationwide public hearings at which Ms Treuen appeared are part of an inquiry into insecure work, chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, which is investigating the growth of insecure jobs, and how it affects people’s lives and communities right across the country. Mr Howe said 40 percent of Australian workers were working in insecure jobs and it was important they were able to tell their story, as part of the means to identify possible solutions.

Jeannie Rea, president of the Australian Tertiary Education Union NTEU says the tertiary education sector is characterised by one of the highest levels of precarious employment in Australia.

Less than 36 percent of all university employees have continuing employment and the figure for “all employees” already excludes those employed on an ad hoc or occasional basis.

“Taking one small part of the problem as an example, there are probably eight to ten thousand casual teaching employees with PhDs earning $10,000 to $25,000 a year in precarious teaching-only employment. This is a waste of human talent and of the public resources which have gone into their education,” said Ms Rea.

NTEU is recommending to the inquiry, among other things, that the Australian federal government should create a public policy regime that encourages tertiary education institutions to meet minimum standards of decent employment and educational quality. It also wants the government to limit Non-Standard Employment through the use of clear and enforceable definitions and limits on the use on all forms of precarious employment.

In New Zealand TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey says there is anecdotal evidence that casual labour is also endemic in our tertiary institutions.

“We strongly suspect the problem is widespread here too. TEU is looking to undertake a significant research project to expose what is happening and what casual workers need to guarantee them fair employment conditions.”

If you have a story to tell about casual or insecure tertiary education work, here in New Zealand, let us know.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

1. SSC to stamp out 2+ percent pay-rises 2. English called for less bureaucracy. Then along came Joyce. 3. Challenge for unions to defend academia 4. More polytechnic students 5. $8000 for each star? 6. Competition winners 7. Other news

SSC to stamp out 2+ percent pay-rises

The State Services Commission, which oversees employment negotiations in the tertiary education sector, has told its minister Dr Jonathan Coleman that it devising mechanisms to ensure pay-rises stay within the pre-election economic and fiscal update forecast of 1.1 percent.

State services commissioner Iain Rennie told Dr Coleman in his recently released briefing:

“Personnel cost growth in the State sector has been relatively contained in recent years, with industrial settlements of between 1–2 percent becoming the norm. This has been higher than the forecasts built into the pre-election economic and fiscal update, which forecast personnel costs to grow at an average of 1.1 percent. Future settlements of between 2.25 and 2.5 percent are starting to be reached in bargaining – putting significant pressure on agencies.”

Mr Rennie said the commission is working on mechanisms “to manage these pressures over the next 1–3 years” and the commission will discuss those mechanisms with the minister.

TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs said the commission was mistakenly treating state sector pay and especially tertiary education pay rates as an economic drag rather than an investment in strong public sector and strong communities.

English called for less bureaucracy. Then along came Joyce.

The National Party has deviated from its pre-government tertiary education philosophy according to TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey. In 2006 Bill English the then shadow minister for education argued that the government was being overly prescriptive in its policy demands for tertiary education and that there were costs to trying to manipulate the system that needed to be accounted for.

“New Zealand’s tertiary reforms demonstrate that there are practical limits to how far a government can steer the tertiary education system. Policymakers need to be aware that a complex and dynamic tertiary sector is not easily measured or manipulated. The costs and energy of New Zealand’s complex attempt to do so have not been worth it.”

Mr English argued for institutions to have greater freedom and less bureaucratic diktats.

“Tertiary institutions should advocate for a much-simplified system with less central bureaucratic discretion, certain sanctions, and greater institutional autonomy. They should be demanding that central government stick to quality monitoring and funding limits until it can demonstrate that its own strategic processes can in fact add value to the institutions.”

However, Dr Grey said that the current government strategy is essentially an extension of the previous government’s strategy, with an increased emphasis on directing what type of research institutions should undertake, what type of students institutions should teach, what should be taught and what constitutes quality.

“Most institutions believe there are greater compliance requirements and bureaucratic demands than in previous years.”

“The National Government’s tertiary education policy conflicts with the party’s core values of removing bureaucratic hurdles and freeing up institutions to deliver high quality education.”

Tertiary Update contacted Mr English and the current minister of tertiary education Mr Joyce but neither responded.

Challenge for unions to defend academia

Academic unions are the best hope to reverse the spread of heavy-handed corporate style micro management, defend academic freedom, reinvigorate academic citizenship, and address the spread and poor working conditions of contingent teaching staff. That is a premise of a widely circulated article by TEU’s University of Auckland branch co-president Paul Taillon.

“If university senates have become marginalised and withered as an effective means of representing the views of staff, and vice-chancellors operate more as CEOs than as members of communities of scholars,” says Dr Taillon, “then unions, which are set up to engage with senior management, must take up the challenge of not just bargaining for decent wages and working conditions but also advocating for meaningful staff participation in university governance.”

Dr Taillon argues unions must also play a key role in revitalising academic citizenship.

“To flourish, academic citizenship needs space in the workplace, and unions are best placed to deliver it.”

Dr Taillon was responding to Education International’s higher education advisor David Robinson’s claim that privatisation and corporatisation are vandalising the public tertiary education. Dr Robinson will be visiting New Zealand in a fortnight’s time to give a series of public lectures in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

More polytechnic students

Some polytechnics are reporting strong enrolments and say relatively high unemployment is continuing to drive people into tertiary education according to Radio New Zealand

According to Radio NZ tertiary institutions in New Plymouth, Wellington, Porirua and Auckland say enrolments are between 5 percent and 40 percent higher than at the same time last year.

“However, they note that enrolments also started well in 2011, only to slump in the second half of the year.”

That slump resulted in some polytechnics falling short of enrolment targets and they hope the same thing will not happen this year.

However, Wintec told the Waikato Times total enrolments as at January 31 were down 334 students on last year’s 10,291 student high, but were up for international students and for returning students.

Unitec told Radio NZ more people are studying part-time, which is a sign the job market is picking up.

$8000 for each star?

Global educational benchmarking agency Quacquarelli Symonds, known as QS Stars, has evaluated Massey University’s performance and given it an overall rating of four stars out of five. While there is no mention of how much Massey paid QS for its ranking, Ireland’s University College Cork (UCC) last year said it paid nearly €22,000 ($35,000) for its QS Stars ranking.

The Irish Examiner wrote at the time the €22,000 fee paid by UCC is the normal charge paid by most institutions taking part in the QS Stars programme.

UCC vice-president for external affairs Trevor Holmes told the Irish Examiner there are plans to raise the proportion of international students from 13 percent – one of the highest of any Irish college – to 20 percent.

“Should UCC’s participation in QS Stars result in attracting a single additional, full-time international student to study at UCC then the costs of participation are covered,” he said.

Massey University’s assistant vice-chancellor (academic and international) Professor Ingrid Day, who commissioned Massey’s evaluation, says it is a strong first-up result that demonstrates to students and research partners that Massey’s core strengths – its teaching, research and the reputation and quality of its academic staff – are not only world-class, but also supported by a multi-campus infrastructure of superb facilities and student support systems.

Competition winner

Last week we held a competition for readers to suggest what information the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission had withheld from the public in their briefings to minister of tertiary education Mr Joyce.

TEU national president Sandra Grey has chosen two winners from the entries we received, The first is from Ian Stuart at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, who sent us this:

“Consider selling certain Universities to national and international private enterprise. Lincoln University, for example, could be sold to a Chinese consortium to use as a training establishment for future Chinese dairy industry workers, and other primary industry workers, working on Chinese-owned farms in New Zealand. This would remove the costs of Lincoln University from the Government books, as well as gaining the revenue from the sale. Likewise, several of the Polytechnics and ITPs could be sold to private enterprise. Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, for example, could be sold to a consortium from the wine industry, which already has a presence on that campus.

Such a move would necessitate a change to the Education Act and as these organisations became industry-owned training staff for their own organisations, they would not need to be accountable to NZQA or funded through TEC, allowing the Government to reduce the size of these organisations, creating further budget savings. Such a move would also reduce the number of New Zealand students actually studying in New Zealand, reducing the costs of student loans and allowances, as well as reducing the SAC funding budget line in the Vote Education”

Our second winner, Gary Elsler from UCOL suggested, more succinctly, that the redacted text read as follows:

“We have no ideas and John’s spent the budget on new carpet for his office, bugger, let’s just blame the Tertiary sector, say it their fault and make up some bull shit that no one understands – so it’s business as usual but don’t tell anyone.”

We sent both winners a copy of Paul Corliss’ book Samuel Parnell: A Legacy, along with a reusable TEU coffee cup.

Other news

Scotland has a unique advantage for a small nation of five million in having at least five world-class universities – more in the top 200 even than France – and one of the best educated workforces in the world. Scotland’s universities have never been regarded as mere education factories – they have a distinct egalitarian, or equalitarian tradition, summed up in that much-misunderstood phrase, the “democratic intellect” – the Herald Scotland

“The National government will continue to invest heavily in tertiary students as the world enters into a skills race.” – Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Steven Joyce to students last week.

Photos of TEU members at the NorthTec stop-work meeting and at a rally at the New Lynn train station supporting workers caught in the Port of Auckland dispute.

A 4 percent increase in the latest round of offers at Australian universities will place overstretched teaching staff under more strain and lower the quality of education for ballooning student ranks, NTEU has warned. Under the government’s new “demand-driven system”, universities will receive funding for as many students as they can enrol. Previously, the government regulated the number of places – the Conversation

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