It’s the end of September!
As usual, the days grow shorter, the kids go back to school, Mayo lose the All-Ireland….and thousands of researchers and casually employed lecturing staff face another year of precarious employment and working conditions.
The quest for fair play for researchers and part-time university staff is now almost as long as that of Mayo for Sam.
Never mind the very clear ruling from Europe in 2003 that demanded the enactment into Irish law of legislation to outlaw insecure employment for any period greater than four years. The government quickly introduced a new black card derogation rule which sent the EU Directive for an early shower.
People like researchers might be referred to by government as ‘crucial agents’ in Ireland’s economic development and recovery, but no cost or effort has been spared over the years to maintain an unjustified derogation from providing them with decent employment standards and conditions.
Even the Labour Court has, regrettably, proved unable to address or resolve the issue to date.
Over the years IFUT has consistently sought to undermine the cosy consensus that those in precarious employment aren’t really worth it.
Despite a neutralised European Directive, IFUT has pursued case after case after case of abuse of the rights of individual researchers and casual staff, some of whom have entered their second decade of ‘temporary’ employment in the same job.
At the recent pay talks IFUT paid particular attention to raising and obtaining agreement on tackling the issue at a high level, in the context of recommendations of the Cush Report. There is now the first chink of hope that these issues can be finally tackled in a meaningful way
There was an acceptance of undue delays regarding establishing an Adjudicator process on the issue of fixed-term and part-time work in lecturing. There was also a commitment by the WRC and the Education Oversight Body that the relevant employers promptly appoint an Adjudicator.
There is separately a need for facilitation of a real dialogue involving IFUT and the Irish Universities Association regarding researchers’ issues.
Progress is occurring on these issues as we speak. But it’s not even half time yet and there is a long road ahead. There needs to be a real by all sides that the recent escalation of precarious employment practices in our universities is bad for all concerned.
And it would greatly help the process if government were to promptly announce its intention to drop the black card rule on derogation from the EU Directive for fixed-term and part-time work.