Casual and insecure work

Posted By TEU on Jan 23, 2014 |

New Zealand tertiary institutions are relying too heavily on casual and temporary labour for jobs that should be permanent.


  1. The problem
  2. Your rights as a fixed-term employee
  3. Overseas campaigns

The problem

Large numbers of TEU members are on casual, rolling fixed term or insecure employment agreements, and many tertiary employers are pressuring for more casualised jobs and less secure work.

Survey shows widespread insecure work in tertiary education

Lesley FranceyA survey of nearly 2000 TEU members shows insecure work, casual and fixed-term employment agreements are widespread in tertiary education. One in six respondents said they were currently in an insecure, casual or fixed-term position, and a further one-third said they had been in such a position in the past. [Read more…]

Casual employees want security not flexibility

calendar diceSeven out of every eight TEU members who are on casual, fixed-term or insecure employment agreements would like  permanent work, according to TEU’s recent survey of casual work. [Read more…]

Hinemoana Baker – eight years without a holiday

hinemoana bakerIf Hinemoana Baker is looking relaxed it’s because she has just come back from her first holiday in “maybe eight years”. With her long string of casual short-term jobs, and her partner self-employed, it is not easy to align days off that overlap. [Read more…]

Stephanie Turner – Insecure work in the quake’s aftermath

Stephanie Turner“After the earthquakes we were quite worried about job security because of falling student numbers.” As Stephanie Turner knows, when jobs are threatened, people in insecure work are the first to go.

 Lesley Francey – Union ends ‘nasty’ roll-over agreements

Lesley-FranceyAfter about two years, Lesley got an agreement that rolled over each year rather than each semester. At least it nearly covered the whole year. She recalls how at the end of December she and her colleagues had to sign an exit document and hand in their keys and equipment before they left.

Your rights as a fixed term employee

There are several different categories of employment in TEU collective agreements:

  1. Tenured/permanent/continuing (The term ‘tenure’ is only used in ITPs)
  2. Proportional/part-time (In ITPs and AUT proportional jobs are limited to 0.2 or 0.3 to 0.8 of a full time position)
  3. Fixed-term/limited tenure (The term ‘tenure’ is only used in ITPs)
  4. Part time/casual /hourly paid – not permanent employment

Fixed-term/limited tenure appointments

  • Fixed-term positions are covered in Collective Agreements and in the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2004, section 66.
  • Fixed-term appointments must be in writing.
  • There must be for a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for having a fixed-term agreement rather than a permanent position at the time of entering into the fixed-term agreement. It must state the reason it will end and how the fixed term position will end.
  • If these provisions are not adhered to then the employer cannot rely on terminating the fixed term appointment at the conclusion of the fixed-term.
  • Fixed-term appointments should only be entered into and end for the following reasons:
    1.  At the close of a specified date or period;
    2. On the occurrence of a specified event; or
    3.  At the conclusion of a specified project.
  •  Most TEU collective agreements have clauses that define the use of fixed-term appointments.

 Examples of genuine reasons for fixed-term appointments

  • Relieving for a substantive position where the incumbent is on approved leave.
  • Filling a vacancy pending permanent appointment, including emergency relief positions.
  • Undertaking a finite task for a period not exceeding two years.
  • To trial a new course for a period not exceeding two years.
  • Matching a period of contractual/targeted funding (eg. research) where the renewal of such funding is not subject to a regular renewal cycle.

Examples of reasons that are not genuine for fixed-term appointments

  •  To trial a person.
  •  To encourage the employee to undertake training or pursue higher qualifications.
  •  To limit the employee’s rights under the ERA.

Issue of rolled over appointments

  • Check to see if there is a genuine reason for the appointment to be rolled over. i.e. extended funding that matches one of the reasons in collective agreement.
  • If the position is on-going then it may be advertised as a permanent/tenured/continuing position.
  • Does it need to be advertised or can the incumbent be appointed?
  • The advertising process – is it needed? Check the collective agreements or advertising policy.
  • Check with your organiser.
  • State Sector Act:
    1.  Appointment on merit“  An employer shall give preference to the person who is the best suited to the position” s 77g
    2.  Obligation to notify vacancies“other than temporary or casual or relieving positions, shall be notified in a manner sufficient to enable suitably qualified persons to apply for the positions” s 77h

Other rights for fixed term appointments in some collective agreements

In some TEU collective agreements where a fixed-term appointment is made for the purposes of teaching a full year’s programme that appointment shall be for a period of not less than 12 months.

Overseas campaigns

unicasualIn Australia, NTEU’s Unicasual website contains details about workplace rights, employees’ obligations and those of their employers, and information on how NTEU can assist. This website aims to help employees find out what they need to know to survive as a casual, and provides practical tips as well as introductions to the union.

stampout_logo1In Britain, the UCU ‘Stamp Out Casual Contracts’ campaign is intended to be a high profile campaign highlighting the work that UCU is undertaking in fighting casualisation in further and higher education.

fair-employment-2013In Canada, CAUT runs Fair Employment Week drawing attention to the overuse and exploitation of contract academic staff.  CAUT has joined with a coalition of organizations, unions and activists across the US, Canada and Mexico to organize Fair Employment Week.

Latest TEU news on casualisation and insecure work

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