Exploitation of Workers in University Sector

Mike Jennings represented IFUT as a member of the ETUCE (European region of Education International) delegation to the quadrennial conference of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in Vienna from May 21 to 24, 2019.

During the course of a session dealing with new forms of work leading to increased exploitation of workers Mike said:

“We need to be careful in case, faced with new forms of exploitative employment practices, we fail to notice the exploitation which is rife and growing more prevalent in sectors such as the university sector which most people would think of as a safe zone free of abuse. It’s like when you are tackling rising floodwaters at the front of your house you fail to notice the tide invading through the back door.

If I refer to “taxi driver academics” I am not talking about professors who work for Uber. No, I am talking about the growing numbers of academics who must eke out a living income by delivering lectures in several different colleges at the same time and the only way they can turn up on time, traveling frantically from college to college, is by taking a taxi.

Do people realise that the vast majority of research conducted in our universities is done by researchers employed on fixed-term, precarious contracts?  The rest is done by “regular” academic staff but very often the research is funded (and directed) by private sector companies and agencies outside of the university.

Delegates will be shocked to hear that in universities nowadays an academic seeking a post or a promotion will be required not only to prove his/her expertise in the chosen discipline but also - I kid you not- to provide “a proven ability to raise private funds ”for their research!!”

Later in the conference an emergency resolution dealing with Brexit was unanimously adopted by the conference.  Mike Jennings addressed the conference to express the gratitude of Irish trade unionists for the solidarity shown to us by the Labour movement across the European Union.
Mike said “you our friends and colleagues have proven that solidarity is not merely a slogan but a tangible reality for us.

On behalf of your Irish brothers and sisters I say “go raibh mile mile maith agaibh” / a thousand, thousand thank you’s“.