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Weekend reflections

September 11th, 2009

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 06:44 | #1

    @Jill Rush
    Jill…unis starting losing vision years ago…when they starting turning inctreasingly reliant on foireign dollars…glorified Tafes with a production line of nicely acceptable and exceptionally boring, pat and incomprehensible “research.” Im exempting JQ as being a species in danger of extinction…an academic who actually thinks.
    I wont pay a union $100 plus dollars a year when they cant even stop the uni stealing my long service leave (by saying continuity is broken between semester 2 and 1) and furthermore wont even try. I did pay for many years but Im not an idiot…Ive watched casualisation grow everywhere and conditions for casuals become contemptible in many places.
    Your comment is is what I hear so often from the permanently employed in unis ..oh but you must belong to the union. I suspect some permanently employed staff are more than happy to see the situation continue and really dont care what happens to casual staff as long as their jobs are not affected – but when it comes to their rights and their working conditions of course they want casuals numbers in the union ranks).
    Well Jill, frankly its a waste of my money and my time…and I, too, like Donald feel ice cold about the NTEU union. I actually no longer care where unis are going..Ive watched them increasingly bow to private interests and real estate deals with uni property and Ive watched subjects be lost to foreign students demands for shorter degrees, Ive seen employed staff who just turn up and show more interest in moonlighting in the private sector institutions. I dont have to resign Jill (the students keep coming and casuals are actually in short supply). But Im in no mood to keep paying the NTEU and what goes on in the MACUNIS I dont care.

  2. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 07:03 | #2

    @Jill Rush
    You also must realise that casualisation as gambit is a “divide and conquer the workforce” strategy that ultimately destroys the effectiveness of the NTEU, allowing even more erosion of permanently employed staff conditions…..its a road to privatisation of unis by destroying any organised resistance. So until permanent staff and the NTEU actually increase their fight for casual’s conditions and rights to gain meningful employment and recognition, expecting to attract casuals as union members is naive.

  3. Rationalist
    September 17th, 2009 at 07:19 | #3

    Alice is showing a fantastic example of freedom of choice in action. Alice found her union to be poor performing, hence she judged not to maintain membership. If enough people share her views, membership will dwindle until the union is unable to continue operations. This is the market at work, fuelled by freedom of choice and the liberalised market. If Alice and others who share her views gather together, they could form another union more in tune with their needs. If people judge this organisation to be a beneficial they will vote with their dollars and memberships, etc.

    This is the exact example which applies fantastically to VSU :) .

    Gotta love it :P .

  4. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 17th, 2009 at 07:24 | #4

    Alice, the union need people like you to speak out for flexibility, the casualisation of the workforce and other reforms has not been the shining beacon of light which most pundits are claiming but a real disaster in higher education.

  5. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 17th, 2009 at 07:29 | #5

    Rationalist, what Alice is expressing is dissatisfaction with the higher education system which has been knocked from pillar to post for three decades. The union movement is not responsible for what governments legislate.

  6. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 07:40 | #6

    @Rationalist
    And Rationalist – no need to be so cheery – if enough people are like me in unis then our committment to education and knowledge as a public good… divorced from purely immediate short term commercial interests of private businesses (but yet, which said public research and knowledge may yield commercial interests)

    will be over, finished……bar the digital screen ads …(buy from MACUNI now – we will do research for you!!)

    Now you tell me Rationalist, which Coal company do you know that will pay for research on melting glaciers and sea level rises? And which company will pay for the history of our Nation to be written? Which company will pay for research into child poverty? Which company will pay for research into recycled water? Because god knows…all towns west of the dividing range are going to need it in the future…

    You misunderstand, misinterpret and misprepresent me Rationalist.

  7. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 07:55 | #7

    A vision for unis…this is what I want. If the government wants its export education market so desperately…let the government charge the students…not unis. Let the government pay unis for what they do best – independent unaligned research for the public good (which does not preclude commercial development either) from the public purse. Thats why foreign students wanted to come here to study in the first place. Stop aligning foreign students choice of subjects to immigration points and let those kids work while they are here if they want to (and show some compassion – give them a damn travel concession).
    Get the merchants, cash registers and spin doctors out of the unis. Take the cost cutting performance bonuses away from heads of schools and all above. Instil public service attitudes back into those who should be public servants and ensure our unis are genuinely committed to the notion of the public good. Unis should stop the downward pressure on the wages and conditions of academics, researchers and teachers at every level and start treating its most knowledgeable with some respect.

    Now is that too much to ask? No, because the way we are going the digital screen advertisemnts will arrive on campus soon “buy research here at MACUNI – special offer applies until June” or “MACUNI offers conference facilities for your next company get together – three courses and fine wines included”

  8. Jill Rush
    September 17th, 2009 at 08:21 | #8

    So Alice it appears your position is acceptance with regrets.
    It sounds as if the union fee is modest and it really is only a start. It allows a person to try and convincce other sympathetic people to agree with proposed courses of action. However most people prefer to pay the fee and think that should be enough as they don’t wish to put their head up in case of repercussions. Casualisation in any part of the workforce does work as you say by weakening links between workers and union membership. Casuals are also inclined to think that they are not in a position for the long term so accept whatever conditions are offered. The unions are not all powerful and can’t solve issues created by wider social forces if the limited membership wants to sit back and leave it all to the poorly paid organisers.

  9. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 09:17 | #9

    @Jill Rush
    The reprecssions you speak of Jill…are greater for us casuals…especially long term casuals…I have seen behaviour to casuals that you wouldnt evenb dream could happen to a staff member. I have seen correspondance floating around the internet from HR to heads of schools….”if you suspect you have an issue with a long term casual academic we suggest you contact so and so here in HR…..”
    Do you really know at all Jill, what happens to casuals? Every semester you can be “disappeared”. One day I wait for the successful lawsuit and it may not even occur in the education sector…I dont wait for the NTEU union anymore.

    Casuals ALWAYS think they are not in the position for the long term…they are forced to think like that. You live semester to semester, private and public, you dont put all your eggs in one institution. You tapdance Jill and juggle and play off one institution against another – you go where wages and conditions are the least odious. I have no interest in your union. I have been waiting too long.

  10. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 17th, 2009 at 09:36 | #10

    John, yesterday’s NTEU strike had international support and I post the following:

    American Association of University Professors

    Dear Colleagues:

    On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Collective Bargaining Congress of the American Association of University Professors, I write to express our unanimous support of the National Tertiary Education Union’s planned nantionwide strike on 16 October. The future of higher education depends upon the equitable treatment of all the constituents of colleges and universities, including the regularization of staff appointments, reasonable student-faculty ratios, and manageable work loads.

    In solidarity,
    Jane Buck, National President, American Association of University Professors

    Members of the Executive Committee, Collective Bargaining Congress
    Ariel Anderson (Chair), Western Michigan University
    Jeffrey Halpern (Vice Chair), Rider University
    Louis J. Kirschenbaum (Secretary), University of Rhode Island
    Donald L. Greer, (Treasurer), University of Nebraska at Omaha
    Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, Wright State University
    Wells H. Keddie, Rutgers Council of AAUP Chapters
    Jeffrey R. Lustig, California Faculty Association
    Cecelia McCall, City University of New York Professional Staff Congress
    Simeen Sattar, Bard College
    Carl W. Schaefer, University of Connecticut
    Estelle S. Gellman (Ex Officio as Past Chair), Hofstra University
    Thomas E. Guild (Ex Officio as Chair, Assembly of State Conferences), University of Central Oklahoma

  11. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 10:50 | #11

    @Alice
    And Jill….no-one even buys a casual a cake when they are “disappeared” and they dont even get a letter of recommendation (unless they ask) no matter how long they have been teaching for an institution…and it can all happen so easily…. as easily as a change of head or lecturer or a move or a petty dislike from some new staff member or even some new performance points that wants to attract more youth or a certain “demographic” to teaching roles (students in front of classes or new foreign grads in front of classes).

    I have seen a lovely fellow and very experienced teacher dumped after 18 years of teaching for one institution, but still young compared to post retirement professors strolling about…no reason offered at all.

    I have even heard of a staff member claiming a casuals qualifications were purchased from a foreign mafia and that casual got dumped, even though they (casual) were better qualified and more knowledgeable than the staff member. No right to a response. No right to engage. No one even asks.

    Walls of silence Jill, and you expect casuals actually CAN engage vocally in the debate with the union or staff? Most of us casuals are adept at dodging bullets you know…we dont stick our heads out of the trenches. You just try to find someone great to work with and hope they stay a while.

    Its not that we dont want to help in the fight against poor treatment of university academic employees…the reality is vast majority of casuals cant fight this one.

  12. Alice
    September 17th, 2009 at 12:26 | #12

    @Jill Rush
    Jill …just think about one thing carefully when it comes to NTEU strategy and who it is designed to protect (NT Eloi union)…
    I could design the NTEU the perfect campaign strategy…they could get 99% of casuals signed up …IF they REALLY wanted to…then when they do have the numbers (planned ahead of course) launch their day of action…but they have not done it..

    Why not?

    They are not silly people.

    Because, Jill Rush, the NTEU makes nice noises about protecting uni staff and casuals rights … but its really only protecting some (those on staff)…and has no interest in breaking down the barriers to entry…. the odd appropriate media release and a straggly day of action will suffice to keep as many current members as possible happy.

    You wont get casual membership unless you offer it for free or exceptionally cheaply until they start delivering benefits.. casuals dont get benefits from the NTEU…and certainly wont pay for it in most cases but it could be done if they NTEU really wanted it..

    They just dont. That is the reality.

  13. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 17th, 2009 at 19:01 | #13

    John, in a letter published in two leading British journals, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and 17 sister associations described climate change as the ‘biggest global health threat of the 21st century’, and for this very reason the Federal Coalition should take on board the Physicians concerns and pass the CPRS.

  14. Donald Oats
    September 17th, 2009 at 20:21 | #14

    Kevin Rudd seems to be serious about his statement of desire to return the public service to its historic principles; his embedding of various Liberals into the various forms of public office is an interesting strategy. Brendan Nelson could hardly contain his excitement at the press release today, and “Bomber” Beasley is in his dream job. I wonder what Kevin Rudd is doing with regards to new appointments to senior public service positions at home in Australia?

  15. Jill Rush
    September 17th, 2009 at 21:23 | #15

    Not my union Alice – however the situation you describe is not unique and many workers across industries are keeping their heads down to keep their jobs or to avoid abusive situations. That is why the Howard government was so keen to break the workers’ spirit even further under Workchoices. However when people do put their hand up and lose a day’s pay over working conditions it would be better to be silent than to join the chorus of condemnation. It takes a lot of courage and self denial to lose a day’s pay which means that a bill may not be paid in time. It is even harder when a unionist knows that there are those who will potentially benefit from this self sacrifice who will condemn those who do take action.

  16. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 18th, 2009 at 07:34 | #16

    John, there is an interesting development in the shareholder class action against AWB. Yesterday the Federal Court ordered the ONA to produce 15 edited reports in the $100 million shareholder class action against AWB beginning in November. Shareholders argue that the losses suffered were the result of AWB concealing its payment of transport fees to the former Iraqi government in breach of UN sanctions. Furthermore, ‘if’ Australian officials had known about the payments, ministerial permission would not have been granted for AWB’s shipments of wheat to Iraq. And come November the public will know the truth and the role played by the Howard government in the whole affair. Thumbs up Justice Lindsay Foster.

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