Higher education and precarious work

 

Sir, – We disagree with Jim Miley, director general of the Irish Universities Association, that allowing universities to pay salaries of up to €337,000 to high profile academics will “provide the best value for money for the State’s investment in talent” (“Universities get green light for salaries over ¤335,000”, News, March 12th).

What about investment in decent pay and conditions for the army of low-paid, precariously employed staff who keep our universities going?

There is rampant outsourcing of catering, cleaning and administrative work to the lowest-paid workers in the sector and endemic job insecurity for researchers. Growing numbers of lecturers are on insecure contracts and, in the case of NUI Galway, wrongly graded in anomalous job categories such as part-time teaching assistant, paid substantially less for doing the same work as their lecturer colleagues.

Universities educate students so it would surely seem logical to invest in teaching. Yet the biggest group of precarious workers at NUIG are the 1,646 hourly paid teaching staff identified in the Cush report (2016). Paid only for the hours that they teach, they have no job security, no entitlement to pensions or sick leave and regularly work without access to an office, desk, phone or computer. Without the unpaid preparation and student support work that they do, undergraduate teaching at the university would not be possible. The work done by these 1,646 colleagues equates to around 85 full-time posts, which means that each earns a minuscule sum.

Finally, it is no coincidence that the majority of low-paid, precarious staff in NUI Galway, and across the sector, are women and that 19 of the 22 highest paid academic staff in Ireland are men.

We have had a plethora of task forces and reports but none so far have tackled this clear pay equity issue. – Yours, etc,

ULF STROHMAYER,

MAGGIE RONAYNE,

SHIVAUN QUINLIVAN,

KATHY POWELL,

DEIRDRE McHUGH,

LAURENCE MARLEY,

PAUL GARRETT,

MICHAEL DONNELLY,

JOHN CUNNINGHAM,

LOUISE CAMPBELL,

REBECCA BARR,

On behalf of Siptu

academic section

stewards committee,

NUI Galway.