Lecturers attack government stance on employment


Polly Curtis
Monday September 9, 2002

The lecturers union Natfhe and the Association of University Teachers have joined forces to condemn the government's "grudging and minimalistic" application of new EU legislation, designed to protect casual workers.

The two unions seconded a motion, proposed by the Trade Unions Congress at its annual conference in Blackpool, which calls on the government to extend protection under existing regulations - and to extend the scope of forthcoming legislation - to provide adequate protection for all part-time, casual and agency workers.

In UK colleges and universities more than 50,000 lecturers work part-time - the majority of these on short-term, hourly pay or agency contracts. Higher education employs 11% of all fixed-term contract workers, second only to the hotel and catering sector.

The motion also states that employers be prevented from using fixed-term contracts for more than two years, and demands that part-time workers' regulations be amended in the UK to provide proper legal protection against discrimination.

It also calls for the equal treatment of agency workers and permanent staff.

Andrew Marley, of Natfhe, said: "The UK government has consistently been using exemptions or restrictive interpretations of EU law to prevent or delay UK employees from having the same protection as their EU colleagues. It is unacceptable that UK workers should be treated as second-class citizens.

"In FE and HE, 50% of academic staff and 75% of new starters are placed on short-term contracts. Independent research shows that the quality of education which students receive is undermined by over reliance on casual staff. Casualisation is a scandal across post-school education."

The AUT's general secretary, Sally Hunt, added: "Fixed-term contracts lead to job insecurity, worse pay and conditions, and reinforce sexism and racism - because it's women and black staff who are disproportionately retained on a casual basis.

"At a time when there is a clear crisis looming in higher education over recruitment and retention it obviously would make good sense for employers to put their staff on permanent contracts and make working in universities more attractive."