Short term and shortchanged

December 3, 1999

While understanding Christopher Frayling's desire to have "practitioner academics", there are alternative contractual arrangements to those on which he insists for his staff.

Why not, as in most of the private sector, offer open-ended contracts but encourage flexible, part-time arrangements, secondments, placements and so on? The flexibility he suggests is one-way and ageist.

There are other ways to encourage fresh ideas rather than throwing someone out after five years (or less). My own research on the effect of fixed-term contracts on the employment relationship firmly suggests that, in many cases, short-term contracts are extremely damaging to creativity and ultimately productivity.

Frayling argues that the short-term, transactional nature of the relationship is mitigated by offering repeat fixed-term contracts and that forthcoming European legislation "could do serious damage". This is nonsense. Offering open-ended contracts to the type of staff the RCA employs will do no damage and can lead only to enhancing the work of the college for all parties.

The policy of the RCA is casualisation, unwitting or not, and an abrogation of management responsibility.

Colin Bryson Senior lecturer, department of human resources management Nottingham Trent University

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