Monday 2 April 2012

Day of Higher Ed

Today is the day of 'Higher Ed' a day for those involved with higher education to blog, tweet and post their higher education opinions and experiences.  I look forward to reading what amounts as a result of this activity.  I am learning so much from other people here in Australia and from overseas, especially the U.S..  My background is in architecture and I have limited knowledge in the fields of politics, governance and humanities.  I can only really comment on my own experiences and try to contextualise them... as best I can.  So blogging (and this is also my first blog) has provided this platform for me to connect with other people in higher education from Australia and abroad.  I am very grateful for these new connections and happily the spruik the potential of the day for 'Higher Ed'.

Pay and Hours Worked
This week's ponder is based on how sessional and casual academics are paid in Australia.  I tutored a theory subject today for two hours and was paid around $112 for each hour.  That sounds like a great rate, doesn't it?  But that pay rate covers my preparation, meetings, outside consultation with students, emails and (although it's not supposed to) marking.  On average I spend one to one and a half days on this subject, working out to about $22 per hour - about the equivalent of a fast food chain worker in Australia.  Now, coming from a background in architecture, I am not going to complain about low pay, it's all I've ever known!  My gripe here is about how we are paid.  Why aren't we paid in a way that represents the hours that we work instead of these ridiculous hourly rates?  There are a few reasons this concerns me, firstly because it is difficult to cry 'hard done by' when you are paid at this rate, which is in no way a representation of the work involved with tutoring a two hour class.  Mostly, though my concern is in the way that employment is measured in Australia, in that employment is measured by how many hours worked in a week and not the amount earned (which makes sense, I'm not arguing that it doesn't).  I currently work around 45 - 50 hours a week as a tutor, but I am only employed by my university for 9 hours a week.  This becomes an issue when applying for loans from banks and in means testing for welfare.  For example, if a woman employed in the manner that I currently am were to apply for the Australian government's maternity leave they wouldn't qualify.  The maternity leave scheme requires that the mother has worked for 330 hours over the last 10 months (that is working for just over one day a week).  Working these limited hours per week and only for the appointed period of between 7 and 13 weeks, someone like myself could not qualify, even though I work more hours than required to satisfy a full time week.  I am interested then in why we are paid in the way that we are and if it could be changed to more suitable model?            

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