Mark Rogers loves working at the University of Wollongong but job security remains a real concern for the casual employee.
It’s a concern most at the National Tertiary Education Union-organised community rally on Wednesday, shared.
Staff, students and community supporters gathered near the Wollongong campus to support the ongoing campaign for secure work for staff at UOW.
The event came hot on the heels of NTEU opening a Protected Action Ballot to empower members to take industrial action in support of its claims for fair pay, secure work and respect.
Fresh data based upon university reporting to the Workplace and Gender Equity Agency shows that around three in four (76 per cent) UOW staff members, factoring in both casual and fixed-term staff, are employed on insecure arrangements.
But UOW argues these figures are a “misrepresentation of its casual workforce engagement statistics”.
“The amount of insecure work at this university is a national disgrace, and we are here to try and do something about it,” Mr Rogers said.
“Now….we found out yesterday that the vice-chancellor is getting close to $1 million a year for working here.
“But the people who actually deliver the content, the actual product that this thing sells, which is teaching students – these people actually delivering that are the people in the most insecure work, and most of them like me are under 30.
The amount of insecure work at this university is a national disgrace.Mark Rogers
“It is an exploitative institution in that sense.”
A one-time Dean’s Scholar at UOW, Mr Rogers added he supported the Change the Rules campaign because the problem of casualisation was a national issue.
“It’s not about fighting for me. It’s about fighting for everybody,” he said.
“I’m a white straight guy and this is happening to me and it makes me feel despair and makes me feel hopeless.
“Imagine how much worse it must be for people who don’t look like me? “Imagine how much worse it must be for female people working at this university, for LGTBQ people, for people of colour, for people with illness, for parents?”
Imagine how much worse it must be for people who don’t look like me?Mark Rogers
In a statement, UOW said it recognises and values all staff who work at the university.
“UOW is engaging in genuine good faith bargaining with staff and their representatives in accordance with Australian workplace law as we work towards achieving enterprise agreements that ensure the university remains viable and sustainable into the future; promote inclusive and equitable work practices; and provide supportive and flexible career pathways for staff.
“Progress continues to be made. The parties have reached in principle agreement about the span of hours and penalty rates for professional services staff.”
But the statement went on to state while CPSU representatives had provided all proposed clauses for renegotiation of the General Staff Enterprise Agreement, the NTEU had yet to provide “several outstanding clauses for renegotiation of the General Staff Enterprise Agreement and the Academic Staff Enterprise Agreement”.
Though Associate Professor Georgine Clarsen, the UOW branch president for NTEU, said management had yet to address the high levels of insecure work at the university.
“There has been some in-principle agreement on some issues but not on the key issues of a pay-rise for academic and professional staff and more importantly addressing the astonishing number of people in insecure work at UOW,” Ms Clarsen said.
“If our members vote yes in the ballot we will have the option of taking industrial action.
“But we don’t want to have to resort to that. We want UOW management to sit down in good faith with us and listen to us and get these agreements done.”