The Irish University of University Teachers have welcomed the passing of a motion in the Seanad this week addressing precarious employment in the university sector.
IFUT General Secretary, Frank Jones says “this motion was not opposed and is the latest evidence of broad, cross party support from our TDs and Senators for action to be taken to address precarious employment in universities. In particular we welcome the focus in the motion this week on the need for trade unions in the sector to be involved in identifying the solutions needed to the problem of precarious employment.
“We are however concerned that despite the clear support for the work and campaigning efforts of IFUT in relation to tackling precarious employment, there is little action evident from the employers, individually or across the sector, to systematically address underemployment, insecure employment, fixed term, part time, casual, hourly paid and occasional employment among thousands of workers in the sector. The only viable solution is for employers to negotiate fair, decent employment contracts with IFUT without delay.
“While there is of course a number of difficulties for the sector, including chronic underfunding, understaffing and a demographic bubble resulting in more and more students entering a system with insufficient staffing numbers employed to respond to their needs, we do not want some of these issues to excuse of justify the use of precarious contracts. Using precariously employed staff is a deliberate choice and a business model for the university sector. It is not inevitable or required for the system to function; if anything precarious employment is interfering with the sector’s ability to function properly.
“Among the issues raised in the debate in the Seanad this week was a comment from Minister for State, Deputy Collins, that part of the reason that the situation is currently as dire as it is for Academics across the University sector is down to the global economy and rising inflation levels across Europe. The current cost of living crisis is of course creating a difficulty for universities, and in particular for students seeking accommodation and staff, especially precariously employed, making ends meet. However the current cost of living crisis is not the cause of precarious employment. The current disastrous situation is down to an employment control framework imposed on the Universities through government policy prohibiting them from hiring permanent Lecturers and Researcher as a rule. In order to cope with growing student numbers the Universities are being ever more innovative in devising means of engaging staff without making any meaningful commitment to them.