Six month reprieve to fix HE pay model

The termination of short-term research contracts is on hold for six months, as Government, union and employers attempt to find a way to adapt to legislation now in Parliament designed to protect long-term employees from the limbo of endless short contracts.

Thousands of casual staff are impacted by the impasse, which seeks to find new solutions to long-term issues with job insecurity borne from the tension between the prevalence of short-term research funding programs and the desire for longer term job security for the people funded by them.

The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHIEA), representing University employers, has long warned that limited-time research projects make it difficult to hire staff in continuing roles, with no guarantee of ongoing research revenue to fund them once projects are completed.  The cost of retrenching ongoing staff under the terms of university agreements would “create significant financial liability” AHEIA’s Craig Laughton argues.

The provisions in the Government’s Bill do not apply to long-term government funded research, such as by the Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council, but would catch industry-partner projects, notably of the research commercialisation kind.

The six month reprieve is a win for AHEIA, which has long complained the Government would not engage on the issue. But it is a skirmish in a way bigger battle over employment conditions.

In its submission to the Universities Accord, the Association argued universities are not funded to turn casual into continuing positions and that there are “structural barriers” to doing so, particularly the traditional enterprise agreement allocation of 40 per cent of work time to research, 40 per cent to teaching and 20 per cent service.

“The inflexibility of workload allocation models in the sector’s many enterprise agreements has necessitated the retention of a steady level of casual employment for at least the past two decades,“ AHEIA asserts.

However, the National Tertiary Education Union submitted to the current Senate inquiry on casual employment, “precarious forms of employment are attractive to employers as more flexible and cheaper forms employment (even with loading) particularly in relation to teaching. However, this is not true ‘casual’ employment, as the convenience and flexibility primarily favours the employer. “

“The use of casual employment has evolved as a cheap and convenient form of employment that has become a systematic approach to university teaching. There is little interest and even less investment by the institutions in their casual staff; they are there simply to deliver the required teaching at the cheapest cost.”



Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Subscribe to us to always stay in touch with us and get latest news, insights, jobs and events!