Limerick senator hits out at ‘precarious’ employment of academics

Limerick Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan.

LIMERICK Senator Paul Gavan has raised the issue of precarious employment in higher education at a commencement matter in the Seanad following a recent report from the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

The Sinn Féin senator said “you would imagine that having studied for years to be qualified for a job in academia, it would be a fairly good and stable career choice”.

“However, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) recently published an extensive survey of over 550 academics, including lecturers and researchers in third-level institutions across the country. It found that almost one third (32 per cent) were employed on fixed-term or hourly-paid casual contracts.

“The precarious nature of employment across the sector is preventing many of the academic staff from being able to make long-term life decisions, such as securing a mortgage or starting a family.

“It is affecting the morale and well-being of the staff in a very real way,” Senator Gavan said.

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He went on to describe academic staff as “the cornerstone of higher education” and said it “makes no sense that these workers would be undervalued or treated unfairly as it has a direct impact on students”.

“Currently, any dialogue between the unions and employers is hindered because the lack of funding means that any measures discussed to address improvements to contracts, pay, and conditions, would need to be sanctioned by the Department.

“Sinn Fein supports IFUT’s key call in this report; a call on the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science to work with unions and university employers at sector level to establish functioning collective bargaining structures to tackle the crisis in precarious work.”