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Byron Shire
September 29, 2022

Southern Cross University’s workplace culture slammed by new survey

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The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has released survey results which it says highlight high levels of ‘workplace stress and dysfunction’ at Southern Cross University.

The survey report entitled ‘The final straw: Insights into workplace culture and staff well-being at Southern Cross University,’ found that 82 per cent of respondents had regularly experienced ‘psychosocial hazards’.

Psychosocial hazards are factors in the design or management of a workplace that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm

Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus. Image: Southern Cross University

Sixty-three per cent of respondents to the survey rated SCU’s workplace culture as ‘negative or extremely negative’.

More than one third said they were ‘likely or very likely to resign from the university’.

The NTEU said that its report suggested that decisions by SCU management, such as a new ‘6 by 6’ teaching model, where subjects are taught in six blocks of 6 weeks, rather than the traditional university semester, had created impossible workloads and high levels of stress.

The union said that the report also highlighted evidence of management indifference and incompetence.

‘The results of this survey make for upsetting reading, with many workers resigned to the situation, some even calling Lifeline from their work desk,’ NTEU NSW Assistant Secretary, Vince Caughley said.

‘We had been responding to regular negative reports from our members, and know through our experience of current enterprise bargaining negotiations that SCU management is particularly hostile to union members and staff.

‘But the survey results presented an even worse situation than we had imagined.’

The union was highly critical of SCU management practice and approach.

‘Two actions by SCU management demonstrate that something is just not right,’ Mr Caughley said.

‘First, they actively blocked staff access to the survey via university email systems and their network, and sent us an angry letter. We do these surveys all the time around the country. It’s extremely rare that a uni management takes this step, but the survey results might suggest why.

‘Second, the university’s main campus is in Lismore, and obviously many staff experienced real trauma following the town’s two devastating flooding events earlier this year.

‘But when we requested a formal pause in enterprise bargaining negotiations, they insisted on only a one-week delay – who does that? Mr Caughley said.

The NTEU is calling for SCU management to urgently address the identified Work Health and Safety issues in consultation with, and in the service of, the SCU community.

SCU has been contacted for comment in response to this article.

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  1. What we have witnessed with unions in this country in recent years – they appear to be specialists in thuggery, trauma, manipulation, collecting your dues, spending your dues and oh, shredding records about your dues and their spending.

    Psychosocial hazards alright.

    What a hatchet job.

    • Oh Yes, Steve !
      Those Psychosocial hazards, that you are so dismissive of, cost the life of one of the best lectures and a good friend.
      This lecturer was a PHD student ( Cheap use ) who’s work-load had prevented him completing his PHD and the pressure of both became too great to bear.
      You need to grow up and re-evaluate your fascist views on workers rights.
      Cheers, G”)

    • Steve. Your judgemental and negative rant could have come straight out of the neoliberal ‘screw the workers and slience the academics’ text book. You obviously DON’T work under the iron fist of SCU excecutive and have no idea what you are ranting about.

  2. I love the 6×6 model personally, as a part time student. One fully focused subject with a 2 week break every six weeks suits me just fine but it would be hell for staff. Only downside is that the assignments are shorter so you don’t get much chance to flex your academic muscle so to speak. Pros and cons, but regardless, I/we have noticed a huge drop in staff satisfaction since the pandemic. In every class, in every area. Without good staff, it all crumbles.

  3. Not a fan at all! In my 3rd year, what, with Covid and its online delivery for 1.5 years, now new 6 x 6 – collaboration and creativity on campus has been stifled. Would not recommend SCU with this model of education to any prospective creatives wishing to follow their passion.

  4. The SCU 6×6 model is an outstanding example of how neo liberalism and the marketisation of the higher education system has delivered poorer results for students, widened the gap between privileged and underprivileged student cohorts and been a catalyst for quality academics to leave the profession in droves. Sad to say that tenured neo liberal cheer leaders at SCU responsible for implementing and overseeing the 6×6 model tend to exhibit little shame and even less self-awareness

    • Let’s talk about marketisation. SCU will get a bad reputation from this, and so it won’t be seen as worth the money, and so they will start to run out of new students and should have to change their system to attract customers. Cue cries for government grants to ‘save our school’ which of course will allow them to resist the correcting forces of the free market. The problems you all attribute to free market are cause by government interference in almost everything today. Why do you think you are stuck using plastic crap that breaks easy and ends up in a land fill.


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