Jan 04 2015

The Workings of Precarity

Category: Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 12:35 pm

Precarious employment is becoming a way of life & academia is no exception

Tenuous employment is now widespread, warns panel invited to attend council.

(excerpted from the CAUT Bulletin, December 2014)

Academic union leaders say the number of academic staff in contract or casual positions is on the rise, a common thread that ran throughout a panel discussion sponsored by CAUT during its council meeting last month.

The event featured Theresa Montaño, a professor at California State University, Northridge, and president of the National Education Association’s National Council for Higher Education; Jeannie Rea, president of the Australia-based National Tertiary Education Union; and Sylvain Marois, vice-president of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec.

Montaño warned that the role of faculty in the U.S. has changed dramatically as higher education is being transformed into a private right rather than a public good.

“The result has been an increasing reliance on online courses and contingent faculty,” she said.

“High levels of precarious work are undermining the academic profession in Australia,” agreed Rea. Since 2005, casual or fixed-term contracts account for three out of four positions filled at Australian universities.

Marois stressed the need to work in concert with other unions, students, civil society and organizations, to counter the ideologically-motivated attacks on the public sector. “It is important to target precarious work, but not precarious workers,” he said.

Rea said her union’s efforts have focused on mobilizing the membership to support campaigns against casualization and fixed-term contracts.

Recent successes have been realized in the form of limits on fixed-term contract categories, conversions to ‘ongoing’ positions, and creation of new early career teaching positions.

The NEA uses research, advo­cacy and organizing to further the interests of contingent faculty, such as its “Degrees Not Debt” campaign that seeks to extend student loan forgiveness programs to public sector workers, including contract faculty at universities and colleges.

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