Following the TEU Secure work = Better Futures edition of Tertiary Update, we received a number of messages of support and gratitude from TEU members who acknowledge the widespread problem of insecure work across the tertiary education sector. We also received messages from members who wanted to share their own experience of insecure work. Here is one such message, from a TEU member who wished to remain anonymous.
I work as a lecturer on a part-time, fixed-term agreement, with my contracts renewed every five to six months. Although the hours I work are closer to those worked by a full-time employee, my yearly income has been less than the Living Wage for many years now.
My contracts usually only take into account my teaching hours because my employer states that my department only expects me to teach. To survive as an academic, I have to undertake research, publish in high impact factor journals, write proposals to get research grants, bring consultancy projects to the department, and do service as well.
I sometimes manage to get some research hours, after long negotiations and with support from the TEU, but there is a lot of ‘free work’ as I undertake research outside what I am paid for.
Insecure work provides employers with the ability to treat employees differently and opens the pathway to discrimination and unfair treatment. There is inequality in pay, conditions and treatment.
I love my job and I am very happy working with my students, I perform well in my job and am capable of inspiring my colleagues. However, working long hours and living under poverty conditions restricts my professional development as well as preventing me from living well in my personal life. Also having to witness and tolerate discrimination and exploitation causes me serious anxiety-related problems.
Witnessing in particular the treatment of women of colour who are disproportionately impacted by insecure work in this system and how harsh the climate can get within an environment dominated by a power imbalance, and deprivation of working peoples’ rights, has convinced me that more needs to be done to promote security in tertiary education.
I want to thank the TEU for their Secure work = Better Futures campaign, and for raising awareness of the issue for people like me and all who are affected by insecure work.