The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), Tertiary Education Union (TEU) and representatives from the Tertiary Education Action Group Aotearoa (TEAGA) have launched a joint Precarious Academic Work Survey.
The survey is part of the joint campaign, ‘No Prospect[u]s’, aimed at bringing about awareness of tertiary staff working in casualised academic labour with the collective aim of improving the lives of academic staff and increasing opportunities for full-time work.
The campaign comes at a time where many students and early career researchers are facing uncertainty in their employment. Postgraduates employed by New Zealand’s tertiary education institutes often work on part-time, fixed-term or casual contracts that do not reflect the level of skill and time required, to effectively carry out the responsibilities that are associated with academic work. A recent survey conducted by the Otago Tutors and Demonstrators’ Network found only 35% of tutors were paid for preparing for a tutorial or demonstration.
“With large numbers of postgraduate and early career researchers in debt, and with minimal academic work opportunities due to COVID and a greying academy, casualisation is becoming increasingly common” says NZUSA’s National Education Officer, Ellen Dixon.
Dixon, a Doctoral Scholar from Victoria University of Wellington, says that “postgrads and post-docs are taking on multiple casual contracts at their provider because they are in debt. They have minimal access to resources, are labeled “half-staff”, and are often not remunerated for all of their hours. Many also suffer from mental health and general illness issues due to workplace stress. This is just not good enough”.
The survey is a result of work carried out over a number of months by NZUSA, TEU and TEAGA - with researchers from across Aotearoa - and aims to provide mechanisms to empower precarious workers in sharing their experiences and pushing for change.
Chair of TEAGA and Doctoral Scholar at the University of Auckland, Luke Oldfield, says “this survey is about establishing what those at the coalface view the tertiary sector as, and what the future of an academic career looks like in our universities. Until now, policy makers are relying on guess work as to determine the size and scope of precarity in the university sector. This is our chance to rectify that”.
The survey will run until October 22nd, 2021.
An interim report from the survey will be tabled in the first week of December.