Australian university workers speak out against casualisation, cuts and restructuring

During a September 21 layoff at the Australian University of Newcastle, striking workers spoke to World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), enthusiastically express their opposition to years of job security cuts and the broader pro-business destruction of higher education. Their names have been changed to protect them from possible repercussions.

The striking NTEU members protest outside Newcastle University. [Photo: WSWS]

Ian said, “I estimate that 40 to 60 percent of the university workforce works as models. You have two different types of casual wear. On the one hand, you have PhD students and masters students doing extra work with their degree. Then you have models who are systematically exploited on the basis of annual.

“There are research assistants in a lot of the big labs that are contracted and because of the way grant funding works, they are usually on an annual contract because the funding may run out.

“There are people in this university who have worked from 10 to 15 to 20 years, and they have never had a secure job, even though they have been at the university for a long time doing exactly the same job. I know some people who have worked here for 20 years and still only work in Incidental business. This is standard practice in universities. It is their business model.”

Ian explained that this had “enormous implications for individuals” who had worked for years as models. “If you want to buy a house for example, and you want to get a loan, you won’t be able to, because the bank looks at your accounts and doesn’t know if you’ll have a job next year.”

Asked why universities did this, Ian said, “I think one of the biggest problems with universities has been their over-reliance on international students to bring in income. This is to make up for over 15 years of cutbacks in higher education.”