Noteworthy, in conjunction with Journal.ie, has released an extensive investigative report into the precarious working conditions of many Irish academics. It indicates that a significant proportion of academics fall victim to these conditions with short term contracts being rife in the sector.
Noteworthy spoke to 30 Irish academics in part-time and temporary contracts and found academics remain unable to buy a house, rely on support from a partner and are unable to make future plans in relation to family and career. Analysis reveals that an average of over 11,200 lecturing staff are working in such contracts across the country.
Dr. Ingrid Holme, adjunct research fellow in sociology at UCD has worked as a researcher in universities across Ireland and the UK for the past decade. Commenting on these uncertain working conditions, she remarked “there’s a turmoil to that constant movement and the lack of investment you can make in your own life…….I don’t have pets – I foster – as you just don’t know if you’re going to be around or not”. Such working conditions have forced many onto social welfare to supplement their income.
As part of its investigation, Noteworthy sent multiple ‘Freedom of Information’ requests to third-level institutes across the country. These requests revealed the detrimental impacts on workers’ finances such contracts were exerting, but if people spoke out, they received ‘pushback’ from colleagues for ‘letting the side down’. Another key finding is that 440 academic staff in these institutes were in continuous employment in excess of two years but not under contracts of indefinite duration, with UCD’s numbers increasing by almost 50% in recent years.
Dr. Theresa O’Keefe and Dr. Alice Courtois remark on the ‘hamster wheel of precarity’ where once academics enter the market of precarious contracts it is difficult to move on and engage in career progression. Women are affected disproportionately by these conditions affect with 71% of women holding part-time roles in universities and 61% of same roles in ITs.
In response, universities say they have ‘no option’ but to hire temporary staff. A UCD spokesperson said “UCD maintains the right to engage employees on a fixed-term basis”. The government, through the Employment Control Framework (ECF), placed a cap on the number of permanent staff allowed. However, the government may soon perform a U-turn themselves and pursue reform after a formal investigation by the Public Accounts Committee into the sector.
Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter