Western Sydney U have appointed 30 casual staff to ongoing academic roles, with 120 more to come by December 2024.
The first starters are in engineering, medicine, business and social sciences.
They are the first beneficiaries of a deal to reduce the university’s dependence on casual teaching staff, hammered out during negotiations for the new enterprise agreement between management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. VC Barney Glover and union branch president David Burchell are said to have had a great deal to do with the nation-leading agreement.
It’s a win-win-win for all concerned.
For a start, it lifts people from the precariat into continuing employment. No one really knows exactly how many casual academic staff universities employ, what with the government reporting the statistical convenience of equivalent full-time staff. But COVID job-shedding by panicked managements made clear the perilous positions of people, often PhD students, surviving on semester-long contracts.
It is also a win for university managements, who recognised the reality of WSU’s lead and are following with programmes to create continuing jobs for casuals. A Senate inquiry heard at length from casuals and responded with a report that slammed and then dunked the sector (Campus Morning Mail October 21 2021). Given the O’Kane Accord Interim Report recommendation that universities need to be “good employers;” if they were not creating continuing jobs they might find the government telling them to.
And it is a win for the NTEU national leadership, challenged in the 2021 election by a grassroots campaign pitched to young casuals who felt ignored by the union.
It’s not all over yet. “In many places casuals employed by the hour are the PRIMARY (sic) form of teaching for undergrad students. A system subsidised by the taxpayer. A national disgrace,” Dr Burchell tweets.
But with other universities following WSU’s lead (notably Uni Sydney), less of one.