No class: Griffith Uni accuses union of ‘scaremongering’ on eve of new pay deal

Griffith University has slammed claims that it plans to shift more of its academic staff onto casual contracts while paying them less and cutting teaching hours as “disgraceful scaremongering” by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

Dec 08, 2022, updated Dec 08, 2022
Griffith University has rejected claims it is planning to cut teaching hours.

Griffith University has rejected claims it is planning to cut teaching hours.

The university’s marketing and communications vice president, Phillip Stork, said information distributed by the union on the eve of a vote to adopt a new enterprise agreement was “entirely untrue” and designed to undermine new terms that would see staff salaries lifted by 12 per cent between 2022-2024.

“Griffith staff care about their students, and it is very important that we are clear – there is no proposal to cut teaching hours and casual staff will continue to be paid for preparing classes,” he said.

“This is deliberate misinformation by the NTEU.”

NTEU national president Alison Barnes and the union’s Queensland secretary Michael McNally have called the proposed agreement a “radical change” that would only guarantee casual academics are paid for lectures delivered instead of including time spent preparing, consulting with students and marking.

The union has estimated that up to 8800 teaching hours could be lost to Griffith’s 55,000 students per year if the agreement is passed.

Pay rates for casual academics could be cut by as high as 80 per cent, while protections against unsafe workloads could also be removed under the new agreement, the union has argued.

“This savage cut to student learning hours is exactly what happens when a university launches an all-out attack on staff working conditions,” Barnes said.

“Robbing students of up to 8800 hours of education a year will fundamentally undermine casual academics’ ability to deliver the learning experience students deserve.

“Griffith’s attempt at aggressive casualisation prepares the ground for more systemic wage theft which has become endemic at Australian universities.”

But Stork said all casual staff would be paid an hourly rate for all work they do, including consultation and class preparation.

He said the NTEU had its chance to be part of designing the new framework but declined the opportunity over months of negotiation.

“We would have liked to have taken a joint proposal to staff,” he said.

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“At present, there are two different ways of calculating teaching. Under the most common approach, casuals are paid on an hourly basis for each activity, such as preparing, teaching and consulting with students.

Under the other, the ‘wrapped-up” rate’, they are paid a single block of money to cover all these activities.

“We propose simplifying this, so everyone is paid in the same way for all the hours of work they do.

“This is not a cost cutting exercise.”

Stork said the core aim of the new agreement was to reduce the risk of underpaying casual academic staff by stripping away complex frameworks that have caused underpayments across the higher education sector in the past.

“In fact, we are expecting this to cost Griffith University more money, due to a higher rate of pay for graduate teaching,” he said.

“We are disappointed that the NTEU have taken this approach. Misinformation like this has the potential to scare students away from the university, which would only serve to hurt staff.”



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