Friday, 1 June 2012

Uni Casual Survey Results

The National Tertiary Education Union survey results on Casual Teaching and Research Staff 2012 are now available online.  I think NTEU and Uni Casual have put together a great publication from the survey results that highlight a number of issues for casual higher ed workers in Australia.  The summary of the results written by Jeannie Rea outline that casual staff experience stress as a result their insecure employment, work significantly more hours than they are paid to and lack sufficient access to resources to assist them in their role.  All of these points I have written about throughout the short history of this blog.  On the one hand I find this almost comforting and re-affirming that my experience is the normal, on the other hand I'm disappointed that universities are unable to provide adequate, basic conditions for their casual staff.

The stress associated with insecure work I have briefly touched on previously through the Howe Inquiry and perhaps I will write more on this next week.  I have also written about the impact of technology on managing contact time with students.  In the survey results over 80% of respondents (p.9) responded to emails or received calls on their own equipment after their contract had ended and they were no longer receiving payment.  Unfortunately, I have recently found myself being very selective about which student emails I will respond to, so that I can manage my time.  I recently received an email from a student who was disputing a grade and in the midst of replying to the email I was told I had to move from the one hotdesk that is shared between sessional teaching staff, casual research staff and one administration staff.  I'm not sure how many casual academics work in my school but we are a school of over 1000 students, so there's quite a number of casual staff and, frankly, one computer to share between all of us just doesn't cut it.  I asked for some more time to reply to my email, as it was from a Maters student who needed their mark clarified as soon as possible and was offered a computer in the student labs!!  I explained that this a totally inappropriate proposition for me to respond to a confidential email from a student whilst surrounded by students - eventually, I was allowed to finish my email.

Out of all the points raised by the casual staff survey, I personally think the lack of access to resources is the most pertinent.  If I was provided with adequate resources it would probably save me considerable time in performing my job - it would most likely reduce and simplify some of the out of hours work we are expected to do.  About 90% of my personal internet data usage is for my work at the university along with the majority of the usage of my phone and personal computer.  This problem could so easily be addressed if universities could simply provide access to phones, computers, internet, photocopying, printing and scanning freely and easily.  Access to these resources would seem like basic rights to an employee, wouldn't it?  According to the survey only around 50% (p.8) of respondents had access to space for student consultation, a phone and/or a computer.  This could be a relatively easy way for universities to improve conditions for their casual staff.         

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