Divided stand on job protection

July 28, 2000

The UCEA proposals are twofold. First, they suggest employers should support the requirements of employment legislation - this is good news. Second, they attempt to put a seal of approval on the near-universal use of fixed-term contracts. If agreed, this would undermine the national implementation of protection offered by the European Union's Fixed Term Directive.

This reflects ignorance about the devastating effects of casualisation on staff and the costs to the institutions they serve.

Tom Wilson should know. Not long ago, we both gave papers to an equal opportunities seminar. My survey identified female university lecturers on chronically short contracts for many years and evidence that equivalent males stayed relatively less time in such posts. Wilson, then representing the AUT, said that research with which he had worked linked inferior treatment in higher education, notably pay and promotion, to the use of fixed-term contracts.

Many university employers are signing up to the view, embodied in the AUT model agreements, that good employment practice involves reducing the use of fixed-term contracts by transferring staff to indefinite contracts. The UCEA promises to attend to some symptoms of casualisation while fuelling the spread of the disease. This renegade step should be firmly rebuffed.

Chris Kynch

Chair, Fixed-term non-contract research staff committee, AUT

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