The PSA/CPSU takes a serious view of insecure work and its negative impact on the lives of workers.
In higher education we have fought hard for many years to embed strong provisions in our agreements to allow casuals and fixed term employees to convert to continuing employment.
However, even with the best clauses in awards or agreements if an employer lacks the good will to provide secure work then workers will continue to be disadvantaged.
Recently we went into bat for a member employed at one university.
“Our member has worked there for six years,” said PSA/CPSU Organiser Phoebe Dangerfield, “and for the last three years she has worked a 60-hour fortnight. They applied for conversion to a fulltime continuing position and this was knocked back on the basis that the work was ad hoc and/or intermittent.”
“It’s difficult to fathom how a 60-hour fortnight for three years straight can be regarded as ad hoc or intermittent work.”
The PSA/CPSU continues to advocate for our member.
We have secured an understanding from the manager in the area that the advent of longer term contracts will create opportunity for more secure employment.
In another instance, an employee at a TAFE worked for five years in a position landed through a labour hire agency which meant no holiday pay, sick leave or any of the other entitlements other TAFE employees receive.
In his fifth year he successfully applied for a temporary position and he has now been working in various areas at the college for over ten years.
But every six months for the past decade he still waits to see if he receives a letter to indicate that his position will continue.
Unfortunately he is only one of hundreds of long term temporary employees in TAFE.
Incredibly, many long-term temporaries have been working for the organisation for over 20 years.
Each is a highly valuable worker who has the experience and institutional knowledge that TAFE relies upon to provide a high standard of educational service to the community.
TAFE should be setting higher standards not adding to lousy statistics.
These are just two examples of the many instances of insecure forms of employment in higher education.
The detrimental consequences are well known and include:
• the inability to plan in advance
• lack of access to superannuation, paid sick leave or carer’s leave
• difficulty getting leases or securing a home loan
• the inability to access professional development opportunities.
A recent European study suggests that ongoing temporary work actually damages workers’ health. If these findings hold in the Australian context, then the public purse is presumably carrying the burden of these additional health costs, while private sector corporations profit from labour hire and contracting out of public sector work.
This is another example of privatising profit and socialising losses.
The CPSU (SPSF Group) has made a submission to the ACTU’s Independent Inquiry into Insecure Employment.
The submission can be viewed at