Education trade unions against precariousness in higher education and research sectors


On 15 March 2017, several education trade unions mobilise for the World Action Day Against Precarity In Higher Education and Research. The action day was initiated by the World Federation of Scientific Workers and is supported by several international associations as well as a number of French, Portuguese and Senegalese national education trade unions, like the  SNCS-FSU, SNEP-FSU, SNESUP-FSU, SNTRS-CGT (France) as well as ABIC, FENPROF and OTC (Portugal).

On the blog accompanying the action day various testimonies can be found about life in precarity and the working conditions of researchers and education personnel in higher education, urging for the need of change towards fairer and more secure working conditions in this sector.

About a month before the Action Day, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research presented a report on young academics. According to the German education trade union GEW, the report shows the widely disseminated practice of temporary contracts which applies to 93% of the young academics at German universities and 84% of those employed by research institutes outside of universities. Furthermore, researchers are increasingly working part-time, with women being employed part-time more often than men. Due to the insecure working conditions, about one half of the female and 42% of the male scientific assistants end up not having children, although only 12% of the young academics state not to want children. The focus of the report was the compatibility of family and a scientific career, which, as the report clearly shows, could be much improved. In the light of the report, GEW proposed a round table focusing on “Good employment in science”.

Precarity affects high education and research staff all across Europe. The ETUCE conference adopted a resolution on enhancing the status and recognition of teaching in higher education in December 2016 and to reach better working conditions for researchers and teachers in higher education. In the Policy Paper on  Early Stage Researchers /Doctoral Candidates, ETUCE demands fair and secure working conditions for early stage researchers, as they are in the beginning of their careers. ETUCE and EFEE have issued a joint declaration on Supporting early career researchers in Higher Education in Europe, inviting their member organisations to promote the employability of early career researchers, their mobility as well as gender equality and equity.