The Socialist 17 July 2013 |
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Lecturers in Wales expose poor working conditions
Two education workers in Wales
A Welsh Further Education (FE) college has hit the local headlines because of a story about a lecturer who has to deliver pizzas to make ends meet.
This was one example provided by members of lecturers' union, UCU, from across Wales, to Assembly Members (AMs) when they attended an event hosted by Bethan Jenkins AM at the Senedd on 9 July.
But zero-hours contracts are not the only form of casualisation affecting education workers in Wales. Other measures include: temporary contracts which terminate before the summer vacation.
This means skilled lecturers looking for casual seasonal work in summer when they should be preparing course work for the following year.
In some colleges these contracts are repeated year on year for four or five years, or more.
Variable contracts are another measure which greatly increases the employer's flexibility but make it extremely difficult for workers to plan financially.
As the fraction of a full-time contract that you teach can be varied at short notice, it can make it almost impossible to take out a mortgage.
One lecturer had this to say: "I love my job, and the opportunity to help young people and adults alike work toward the life they have always wanted.
"But, I do the exact same job as people who earn three or four times more than me, and who get paid for all the things I am expected to do for free, and sometimes it feels demoralising and belittling."
Use of agency workers is also widespread. Casualisation is an increasing problem for teaching and non-teaching staff organised in Unison.
In addition, workers in services like catering, cleaning, grounds maintenance, etc, have either seen their jobs outsourced or are under threat of it.
UCU were trying to convince Assembly Members to intervene to force colleges to end casualisation. But the Welsh Labour government is unlikely to be of much help.
They are currently bringing legislation that, as well as opening up colleges to the risk of privatisation, will increase the autonomy of colleges, narrowing the Welsh government's scope to intervene on issues relating to workers' terms and conditions.
Welsh Labour's recent record on casualisation is not good. Swansea council is planning to take away summer retainers for thousands of workers, including nursery nurses working in schools who stand to lose several weeks' pay.
Labour-led Rhondda Cynon Taff is bringing in zero-hours contracts for existing homecare workers.
Welsh workers will have to rely on their own efforts and fight increasing casualisation with action through their unions.
We also need politicians that will vote against cuts and casualisation - standing as many TUSC Wales candidates in the next elections to the Assembly and Welsh councils as we can.