Speech: The plight of staff at Southern Cross University


I rise, as I have many times before, to speak about the plight of higher education workers—specifically, in this case, the staff at Southern Cross University. Following reports about unmanageable workloads and bullying, the National Tertiary Education Union sent a survey to all Southern Cross University staff. Shockingly, management tried to block access to the survey online, which shows how much they care about hearing from their staff on welfare issues. Despite this, hundreds of staff completed the survey.

The results were pretty shocking and revealed an extremely unsafe workplace where staff are worked to the bone: 82 per cent of staff reported regularly experiencing psychosocial hazards, 44 per cent of staff reported they were likely to seek medical advice for work related stress, 63 per cent of staff rated workplace culture as negative or extremely negative and 36 per cent of staff said they are likely or very likely to resign from the university. These dreadful conditions are sadly becoming too common amongst universities today. As vice-chancellors earn more and more and as students are funnelled through like cash cows, staff deal with rampant casualisation, job insecurity, unmanageable workloads and wage theft.

A better university, one that is built on the principles of equity and democracy, is possible. We need an overhaul of university governance to shift the balance of power away from the managerial class back to staff and students. We need to reimagine universities as places of public good, where staff are respected, have secure jobs and the best pay and working conditions—where students flourish and where profits, cost cutting and the bottom line play no role. My solidarity is with the staff and NTEU members at Southern Cross Uni and universities across the country who are fighting for their rights and for the rights of public education.