Lecturers' leaders attacked the government's "grudging and minimalist" approach to European laws for fixed-term and casual workers this week, leading calls by the Trades Union Congress for greater employment rights, writes Phil Baty.
At the TUC conference in Blackpool, the Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe said that the government treated UK workers as "second-class citizens", denying them employment rights enjoyed by their colleagues across Europe by obstructing the implementation of European Union directives on part-time and fixed-term work.
In a joint motion they said that higher education employed 11 per cent of all fixed-term workers, with 50 per cent of all academic staff and 75 per cent of new starters put on short-term contracts.
"Independent research has shown that the quality of teaching offered to students, and the quality of research, are threatened by this over-reliance on casual staff," the motion said. Casualisation reduced productivity and loyalty and created recruitment and retention problems, they said.
Speaking for the motion, Natfhe's Andrew Marley said: "The UK government has consistently been using exemptions or restrictive interpretations of EU law to prevent or delay UK employees from having the same protection as their EU colleagues. It is unacceptable that UK workers should be treated as second-class citizens."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the AUT, said: "Fixed-term contracts lead to job insecurity, worse pay and conditions, and reinforce sexism and racism - because female and black staff are disproportionately retained on a casual basis."