Precarious employment in academia
Sir, – Peter McGuire’s article on precarious employment in academia (“Is this the end of job security in academia?”, April 4th) highlights practices that are unquestionably exploitative, and about which there is mounting discontent and unrest within the education sector.
It is surprising that NUI Galway is not mentioned. The Cush report observed that “atypical”, precarious employment is a “significant phenomenon” in third-level institutions, an observation based largely on figures supplied by NUI Galway, which revealed that 1,646 of the university’s academic employees are hourly paid. Even among those who have secured a contract of indefinite duration (CID) at NUIG, Siptu has identified a variety of forms of unfair treatment. Full-time academic researchers feel continuously exposed to the prospect of redundancy. The university management has also established a number of lower-tier, misnomer “grades” such as part-time teaching assistant (PTTA), which contain many professional academics who perform the same, or comparable, roles as other colleagues, but who do not enjoy the same conditions or security, and who are paid considerably less. Data obtained by Siptu through a freedom of information request has, significantly, revealed that the majority of those on such exploitative, precarious contracts are women.
Rampant outsourcing at NUIG in the administrative and general operative grades has led to a greatly increased dependence on low-paid, precarious workers working for private contractors and there are recent indications that academic work is also now being outsourced.
Moreover, the situation is compounded by the fact that university management claims that staff in the PTTA “grade” are excluded from the protection against compulsory redundancy that is afforded under the public service agreements, a position robustly contested by Siptu. This is a worrying development that could have implications throughout the education sector, and indeed beyond. – Yours, etc,