It's now week five at my university and I am still waiting on three contracts to be processed so that I might be paid sometime before week 8 - maybe....hopefully?! This is nothing new in my experience as a casual/sessional academic, I've always seen it as a forced form of savings. Although I have friends for whom this is a serious problem and waiting for the income that is owed to them is a very stressful situation. What I didn't realise, until this week, is that receiving my contracts in week four meant that I was not covered by the university's insurance in those first four weeks of teaching. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has negotiated rights and terms for sessional and casual academics at each Australian university, you can download a copy for your university here: http://www.unicasual.org.au/publications/smart_casuals. I also recently learned about what the NTEU had negotiated (most of which aren't in place at my university for sessional staff) through completing the online survey here: http://www.unicasual.org.au/survey2012. While I'm sure this survey will serve a greater purpose, it is also a great five minute tutorial in what you are entitled to as a casual or sessional academic. Unfortunately, I can't see where the agreement covers contracts that arrive some weeks after we the semester has commenced - especially now I'm aware that I may not have been covered by the university in the weeks before my contract arrived. In comparison to my professional office job, the classroom can be a little more risky, for good reasons and for not so good reasons!
This problem is not unique to my university as I found this article on Swinburne university's failure to pay its casual staff http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/swinburne-casuals-still-waiting-to-be-paid/story-e6frgcjx-1226307499235 . This would be unacceptable practice in most industries and yet seems to happen so often for casual staff in higher education - why?