Unions chide Edinburgh Napier over zero-hours job adverts

Criticism follows latest vacancies for controversial contracts

May 29, 2014

A Scottish university specifically seeking to recruit “zero-hour lecturers” has been criticised by trade unions for continuing to employ staff on the controversial contracts.

Edinburgh Napier University has advertised a series of zero-hour roles since January last year, most recently online on 16 May.

The advert, for “zero hour lecturers [in] Critical and Contextual Studies in Design”, advertises an annual salary of “£34,565 to £35,597” even though under such contracts, employees are not guaranteed any work at all.

Last year, Edinburgh Napier advertised for zero-hour lecturers in sport and exercise science; sexual and reproductive health; child protection; and acute adult nursing.

“Universities are now beginning to recognise that professional, happy and well-motivated workforces are not built on zero-hour contracts,” said David Belsey, national officer for further and higher education at the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Mary Senior, Scotland official at the University and College Union Scotland, said that other universities in Scotland had indicated that they were “moving away” from using “exploitative” zero-hour contracts.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Napier said that the university’s use of zero-hour contracts was kept to a minimum and was regularly reviewed.

“In terms of overall hours of teaching, less than 5 per cent is delivered by staff on zero-hour contracts,” he said. “These staff teach specialist subjects that may not be taught throughout the year, but are of real benefit for our students. As such they are on permanent contracts and have associated benefits.

“Many of the staff on these contracts have portfolio careers, and welcome the opportunity to do some lecturing alongside their other employment. This also means that our students learn from individuals with experience in different industries.”

A UCU survey last year revealed that more than half of UK higher education institutions use zero-hour contracts, with more than 24,000 academics and other staff on the deals across 71 institutions.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

There is nothing wrong with zero-hour contracts per se. As a mutual agreement they can be a useful opportunity or option for people wanting flexible part-time or even just occasional employment ( portfolio career people perhaps. Or the semi-retired ). They are only a problem if they are abused eg used by employers to fill what are really long-term full-time positions . There could surely be a way to regulate them sensibly eg through upper limits on their length/time before a different contract should be offered - in that way getting rid of 'exploitative' versions but keeping them for where it is appropriate .
Surely university managers abusing their positions is a rare phenomenon, and likewise lecturers aspiring to teach in higher education would not accept to do so under chains. If the above conditions change, then there is something wrong with zero-hour contracts per se: they destroy the ethos of any College at question and degrade the standards of its life.

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