24 February 2015 4 Comments
This post was inspired by the National Tertiary Education Union 2014 conference on Insecure Work. Thanks to the National Tertiary Education Union for inviting the Research Whisperer to be part of the conference, and for paying for my airfare and accommodation. I learned many things, and this post covers some of them.
It has been a while since I needed to fill out a timesheet, but my visceral distaste for the timesheet ritual remains very strong.
It wasn’t just that they were fiddly and annoying and stupid (although they were). I hated what they represented – they made me feel unvalued, disempowered, and disposable.
At the back of my mind was the lurking knowledge that I could be dismissed with an hour’s notice, that I was a ‘resource’, that I was temporary.
It didn’t matter that my boss valued my work, and I had excellent relationships with them, or that we had a long history of working together.
When you work at a university, you learn that there are two different drivers for all activity: personal ethics and institutional imperative.
When the institutional imperative calls for a review or a restructure or any other activity that requires shedding jobs or saving money, the nicest people can end up doing truly horrible things, no matter what their personal ethics call for. If the rules say you get sacked without notice, you get sacked without notice.
Timesheets, at their heart, represent hourly paid work. This work gets called different things in different places – sessional, casual, adjunct, whatever. Names have power, though, so I think that we should call it what it is – hourly paid work (except on your CV, when you want it to sound as shiny as possible). By doing this, we take away the mystique, the special language, of the academy. By calling it hourly paid work, we bring it into the same world as stacking supermarket shelves and flipping burgers. We bring it into the marketplace.
It is important that we do that, because one in two jobs at Australian universities are now casual or contract.