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Tens of thousands of uni academics are being exploited through zero-hours and insecure contracts

TENS of thousands of academics are being exploited through zero-hours contracts, a shocking new report by the University & College Union (UCU) reveals today.

More than 6,500 uni lecturers are employed on zero-hours contracts, and 68,845 do not have normal secure contracts of employment.

Staff on insecure contracts are effectively sacked at the end of the academic year and receive no holiday pay for the termly and half-term holidays.

Almost half of university lecturers (49 per cent) are on fixed-term contracts, meaning they do not know if they will have a job to go back to at the start of the academic year in September.

The study includes interviews with lecturers subjected to exploitative and insecure contracts, and concludes that the “casualisation” of lecturers’ jobs make them vulnerable, invisible and “second-class academics.”

One interviewee said the bubble quickly burst on “the best job in the world” when she and her colleagues found themselves in the “sweatshop of academia” and treated differently from their colleagues.

Another said that temporary contracts meant that sometimes she would have to start applying for jobs as soon as she took up a new position.

Other problems included not being given enough time for teaching preparation and a lowering of the quality of the education that students receive.

Casualised staff say they lack access to adequate teaching facilities or places to meet students to discuss their work.

And the report says they are prevented from being able to plan a professional or personal life.

UCU is calling for an end to casualisation and wants individual university authorities to introduce secure contracts for all lecturers.

Union general secretary Jo Grady said: “Universities need to understand this is a real problem that must be dealt with, not excused or underplayed.

“Some institutions have worked with us to move staff onto more secure contracts but, overall, the higher education sector is too happy to exploit its army of casualised staff.

“We need to have an honest conversation about casualisation that draws out the real extent of the problem and how we can secure improvements for staff.

“Students would be shocked by the levels of casualisation in universities and the toll that being in insecure employment takes on people.”

The report says that universities’ statements about how much they value their staff “ring hollow when put against how thousands of staff without secure contracts are treated.”

Before Christmas UCU members at 60 British universities took strike action in disputes over pensions, pay and conditions, including overcasualisation.

Lecturers at a further 37 universities are being balloted on strike action. Voting closes on January 28.


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