SIPTU Education Sector Chair, Maggie Ronayne, said: “Women are disproportionately impacted by the spread of precarious work practices in the education sector in Ireland from cleaners to catering staff to temporary administrative staff to lecturers.
“The focus on gender equality in higher and further education has largely been on the promotion of more academic women to senior roles. However, precarious employment be it hourly paid, fixed term contract or outsourced working, is also an enormous but largely overlooked problem in the sector. Tackling precarious work is crucial to achieving gender equality and pay equity.”
She added: “Outsourcing is rampant and must be addressed. Cleaning staff, the majority women and many who are migrant workers, are one of the groups most affected. However, many people would be astonished to learn that the lecturer teaching their son or daughter can be on the minimum wage without access to an office, computer or even without pay for their time advising and supporting their students.”
Among those who addressed the meeting were workers directly affected by precarious employment, including several who have endured an unstable existence on low paid, rolling short-term contracts for years and even decades. Employment law experts, including Maynooth University Law Lecturer, Professor Michael Doherty and Senior Lecturer at the University of Limerick, Dr Michelle O’Sullivan, also joined the discussion.
SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley, said: “At the core of this fight against precarious work are competing, indeed opposing, ideologies concerning what it is to be a worker in the third level sector. Is it to be merely a generator of someone else’s profits or a self-confident actor who can assist in creating an environment which fosters true educational development?
“Today, workers from across the sector discussed the issues affecting them and decided to take action by stepping up their union organising by utilising traditional methods complemented by social media and other tactics.”
SIPTU Education Sector Organiser, Karl Byrne, said: “The higher and further education sector is largely publicly funded. The workers involved in delivering this key social good should have the importance of their role respected and be provided with the same standard of employment contracts that are available to others in the public service.”