Report shows use of zero-hour contracts by universities

Report finds up to two-thirds of third-level teachers not in full-time or permanent jobs

University of Limerick: report found that the university had the highest proportion of full-time lecturer posts  (33 per cent), followed by DCU (27 per cent) and TCD (26 per cent). Photograph:  Press 22

University of Limerick: report found that the university had the highest proportion of full-time lecturer posts (33 per cent), followed by DCU (27 per cent) and TCD (26 per cent). Photograph: Press 22

 

A Government-commissioned report has acknowledged the reliance of some colleges and universities on precarious and zero-hour contracts for employing lecturing staff.

The report of an expert group on fixed-term part-time employment in lecturing at third level shows that up to two-thirds of lecturing staff in some higher education institutions are not full-time or permanent.

Unions and representative group for college lecturers have seized on the findings as evidence that precarious work is propping up much of the third-level sector.

The report, by senior counsel Michael Cush, makes a number of recommendations aimed at providing more working hours for part-time staff.

Among institutes of technology, the national proportion of core lecturing staff who were not full-time and permanent was 25 per cent.

The highest proportion of those not full-time and permanent was recorded in the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (66 per cent), followed by CIT (45 per cent), along with Limerick Institute of Technology and Letterkenny Institute of Technology (both 25 per cent).

When these figures are broken down to full-time equivalent numbers, the proportion of those not full-time and permanent falls to an average of 14 per cent among institutes of technology.

Again, the highest per centage of core staff who were not full-time and permenant under this category was recorded at  Dún Laoghaire (32 per cent), followed by Carlow IT (25 per cent) and IT Tralee (20 per cent).

Among universities, the average proportion of core lecturing staff who were not full-time and permanent was 45 per cent.

NUI Galway recorded the highest proportion of staff who were not full-time and permanent (75 per cent), followed by DCU (42 per cent), and UL (39 per cent).

When these figures are broken down to full-time equivalent numbers, the average proportion of  lecturer posts who were not full-time or permanent in the university sector was 20 per cent.

The highest proportion was recorded at the University of Limerick (33 per cent), followed by DCU (27 per cent) and TCD (26 per cent).

Mr Cush’s report makes a number of recommendations aimed at addressing the issue, including reducing the qualification period for granting a contract of indefinite duration from three years of continuous employment to two years.

The report says a reduction in the qualification period would contribute to an “amelioration in the difficulties described by lecturers’ representatives”.

“There is no doubt that the use of part-time contracts is a necessary and desirable feature of third level education in Ireland, ” the report states.

“That said, there is no doubt but that for many lecturing staff, part-time contracts leave them in a very precarious position financially and reduces the attractiveness of lecturing as a career.”

The Irish Federation of University Teachers has welcomed the report, but highlighted that it does not address the issue of research and researchers, where a substantial portion of precarious employment is located.

The federation’s general secretary, Mike Jennings, said that while the report provided a welcome acknowledgment of a huge problem, “it is very regrettable that Cush was so forcibly prevented by Department of Education from even considering the area of research and researchers”.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland said implementation of the report’s recommendations will represent a significant step towards addressing the crisis of casualisation.

The TUI said it has engaged in a long campaign highlighting the demoralising effects of casual employment in institutes of technology.