The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has released a charter criticising UCC for their practice of employing research and teaching staff on a casual basis. The charter aims to publicise the widespread problem of casualisation and low pay of academic staff in Irish universities. The union have claimed that at least one third of academic staff at UCC are employed on a casual basis, meaning more than 200 staff in UCC are affected by the “exploitative” practice. The charter resulted from a meeting called in April by the UCC Branch of the IFUT due to concerns about the extent of the problem in the university.
IFUT general secretary Mike Jennings has described the policy as “extremely demotivating for those involved and indeed for all academic staff. It results in rapid staff turnover, extremely precarious pay and conditions, and is totally unsatisfactory from the perspective of good teaching practice.” Mr Jennings said these “blatant cost-cutting” measures exacerbated other challenges currently faced by Irish universities, namely the fall in international rankings, and will inevitably lead to rapid staff turnover and a fall in education standards.
According to the Evening Echo, UCC has denied claims it is operating a policy of casual employment. A spokesperson from the university has said they are simply implementing rigid employment controls that are in place for all third-level universities in Ireland. Mr Jennings called for a reversal of these policies in the third level sector, and spoke of a deliberate effort by management to establish casualisation and low pay for academic staff. Jennings said the policy was “totally unsatisfactory from the perspective of good teaching practice.”
The spokesperson said, “UCC continues to prioritise the employment of academic staff and this is evidenced by the fact that there has been a great reduction in levels of administrative staff vis- à-vis academic staff.” They further commented, “In delivering a large and diverse range of courses, it is important that the university maintains flexibility to ensure that the appropriate expertise is available to deliver on all of its programmes.”
Institutes of technology in Ireland however, following political action by the Teacher’s Union of Ireland, have been granted greater career protections such as a decrease in time before obtaining permanency.