The highly casualised University of Wollongong staff's fears for their job security has heightened in recent days as the Covid-19 storm rips through the higher education sector.
The "increasingly concerned" staff members have called on UOW management to follow the lead of universities such as Macquarie University, whose vice-chancellor reassured its casual workers that they could continue to work from home should the university close for a period of time.
He also wrote on the university's website that "for casual staff who cannot work from home, or where we cannot rearrange shifts, the University has decided that it will continue to pay casual staff for their rostered shifts for a period of up to two weeks".
Associate Professor Georgine Clarsen, the UOW branch president for the National Tertiary Education Union, wanted UOW management to be more proactive in its dealings with staff and students. "We are keen to work with management on this issue however we feel they have not yet been proactive in letting all staff and students know what their plans are in various scenarios," Ms Clarsen said.
She is particularly concerned as the virus spreads it could result in casual staff losing hours and perhaps their jobs should UOW cancel classes or courses.
"What about if casual staff fall ill, will they continue to be paid? How will their work be covered by other staff? There's a lot of unanswered questions," Ms Clarsen said.
The UOW did not respond to Mercury questions before deadline.
The crisis has already forced one of Australia's oldest institutions, the University of Tasmania, to fast-track a major restructure that will lead to job losses.
On Wednesday the ACTU Executive called on the Federal Government to provide a guarantee of two weeks paid leave for all workers, permanent, casual and contract, who are forced to either self-isolate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or where there is a genuine business downturn or shutdown as a result of the pandemic.
If working people are forced to choose between going to work sick or being able to pay their bills and feed their families then we are creating a disaster scenario for public health.ACTU secretary Sally McManus
"The most important thing for public health is to ensure everyone knows that if they have to self -isolate that there is not going to be a financial penalty for them and their family. If working people are forced to choose between going to work sick or being able to pay their bills and feed their families then we are creating a disaster scenario for public health," ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.
But Innes Willox, the Chief Executive of national employer association Ai Group, said the "ACTU's proposal should be quickly ruled out"
"Employees who need to be absent from work due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, already have a range of entitlements and protections to ensure that they are not treated unfairly. These include various forms of paid and unpaid leave, as well as unfair dismissal laws and the General Protections in the Fair Work Act."