SCU is the centre of negotiations for causal and fixed-term staff.
SCU is the centre of negotiations for causal and fixed-term staff.

Lecturers forced into dole queues

SOUTHERN Cross University (SCU) has hit back at claims it reneged on commitments to improve job security for casual and fixed-term teaching staff with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

The NTEU yesterday said hundreds of academic staff from SCU were joining the dole queue as their teaching contracts ended.

The union had been specifically seeking more secure forms of employment for casual and fixed-term staff as well as improved pay and working conditions.

NTEU-SCU branch vice-president and lead negotiator Grant Cairncross said bargaining had progressed well in October before the breakdown.

“Many casual and fixed-term teaching staff are employed on just two 12-week contracts, some earning little more than the equivalent of $30 per hour,” Mr Cairncross said.

“So for the 28 other weeks of the year these staff are forced to rely on unemployment benefits as their only source of income.

“Students are often shocked to see their lecturers alongside them in the Centrelink dole queue.”

Mr Cairncross said both the university and the NTEU had previously been looking to reach an agreement by the end of the year.

SCU yesterday refuted the claims that it had reneged on its commitment.

“Claims that hundreds of academic staff will be joining the dole queue are completely inaccurate,” Human Resources director Sharon Farquhar said.

Ms Farquhar said the NTEU was making unsubstantiated claims.

“We have been progressing well with negotiations and are very close to reaching agreement on eight clauses, including the employment of casual academic staff,” Ms Farquhar said.

“But we won’t be bullied by statements which give a completely inaccurate picture of staffing at SCU.

“We have been very clear with the NTEU about our position in regard to casual staff and our commitment to ensuring we have a sustainable workforce.”

Ms Farquhar said there would always be a need for some casual staff, particularly in areas such as marking, clinical nurse education, demonstrating and tutoring.

She said despite the claims made by the NTEU, SCU would continue to negotiate in good faith.

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