UNSW Casuals' Response to Conversion Emails

To: Ian Jacobs, UNSW Vice Chancellor

The majority of people employed by UNSW Sydney are not in secure jobs, with a significant amount of the teaching work done by casually employed academic staff. Many casual academics have the same qualifications, skills, experience and teaching responsibilities as continuing staff, yet we are not treated with the same level of respect or considered worthy of job security. Many casual academics have endured precarious and unfair working conditions for years, including blatant wage theft, while the university benefits from their labour and dedication. Our work, which includes student care and support, is fundamental to the functioning of the university. Yet we are not entitled to “wellbeing days” or “recharge weeks” because we don’t have access to paid leave entitlements, a clear sign of the university’s lack of regard for casually-employed staff.

On Thursday 23/09/2021 at 8pm UNSW sent an email to all casuals regarding the eligibility of casual employees for conversion to full-time or part-time positions, and bluntly informed the recipients that they had been assessed and would not receive a conversion offer. A follow up “clarification” email was sent the day after at 5:30pm, apologising for any “confusion or distress” caused by the first email, given its ambiguity and its numerous errors.

The initial email was sent in response to changes to the Fair Work Act made earlier this year. Under the Fair Work Act, UNSW is required to review casual employees to determine eligibility for conversion under s 66B. However, this email made the following claims:
1. “The limited nature of the duties and responsibilities of casual academic staff do not align with the duties and responsibilities required of full-time or part-time academic staff members”
2. “You could not continue to do the work you currently perform as a casual academic as a continuing academic employee without significant adjustment”
3. “The pattern of hours currently worked by you are not equivalent to those performed by full-time or part-time academic staff.”

How would they know? They did not consult us. They did not consult the people we work for in our faculties and schools. They did not consult the union.

The email offered no explanation of the method or criteria used to assess casually employed academic staff. In particular, it did not explain the difference in “duties and responsibilities,” what a “significant adjustment” is, or what constitutes a “pattern of hours.” The second email mentioned these criteria again without definition or explanation, noting that a “fundamental difference” between a casual position and a continuing position is “research and engagement work” and “teaching and educational development.” These emails exemplify the general disdain of UNSW management for casual academic staff.

We demand to know:
1. What process, if any, was undertaken to assess casuals on an individual basis
2. Who undertook the assessments and how they were qualified to do so
3. How many casuals were affected, and of those, how many were made offers for conversion
4. Why research-active casuals were not recognised
5. Why casual academic staff were not evaluated against criteria for education focused roles

This change to the Fair Work Act offers very little for casuals at UNSW - our only path to job security is collective bargaining. When the university says that they value our contribution, what they really mean is they value our exploitation. We need to act together now because there’s nothing ‘casual’ about precariously employed academic staff at UNSW.

UNSW Casuals Network


If you’re a casual and fired up about this - get in touch! https://twitter.com/UNSWcasuals, https://www.facebook.com/UNSW-Casuals-Network-111069980586389 or unswcasuals@gmail.com. Come along to a meeting - Monday 5pm every even week.
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Jack Robbers, Engineering/CSE
Anna Hush, School of Social Sciences
Sally McLaren, School of Humanities and Languages
Jayne O'Connor, Faculty of Law and Justice
Zelun Li, Computer Science
Angela Kintominas, Faculty of Law & Justice
Alejandro Bona, ADA/Built Environment
Kael McCormack-Skewes, School of Humanities and Languages
Angela Smith, FASS
Chris McElwain, Faculty of Law and Justice
Daniel Fleming, School of Humanities and Languages
Joe Alizzi, ADA

Mika Benesh, Student/alumni, Arts, Architecture and Design
Izumi Tam, Student/alumni, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
Mirima Goldman, Student/alumni, Science
Luc Velez, Student/alumni, Law and Justice / School of Social Sciences
Anna Ho, Student/alumni, Law and Justice/Science
Ei Phyu Synn, Student/alumni, Medicine
Tina Ventoura, Student/alumni, School of Chemical Engineering
Katherine Wong, Student/alumni, Science/Arts
Toby Fitch, non-UNSW, Lecturer in Creative Writing, USyd
Yaegan Doran, non-UNSW, University of Sydney
Natalie Maystorovich , Student.alumni
Ben Eldridge, non-UNSW, FASS, USYD
Nicholas Avery, non-UNSW University of Sydney
Robert Boncardo, non-UNSW
Tin Linn Ko , Student/alumni. Arts/Social Science
Joy Anugerah, Student/alumni. UNSW, Music/Arts
Regina Le, Student/alumni. School of Social Sciences
Markela Panegyres, non-UNSW, Design (UTS), Art History (USyd)
Kylie Zhu, Student/alumni. UNSW Business / Arts
Priscilla Yao, Student/alumni. Business School / Faculty of Arts
Kyra Alday, Student/alumni. Engineering
Anna Pellen, Student/alumni. Humanities and Languages/Science
Kameron Wijaya, Student/alumni, Engineering/Chemical Engineering
Martina Ho, Student/alumni, Business
Naomi Segal, Student/alumni, Arts, Architecture and Design
Shovan Bhattarai, Student/alumni,  - Faculty of Arts
Daniel Magee, Student/alumni, ADA
Ben Nunquam, non-UNSW
Alisha Nalbo, Student/alumni, Law/Arts
Priya Nandyal, Student/alumni, Science/Mathematics and Statistics

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