ETUCE is concerned about the working conditions for researchers

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On 16 November, the ETUCE Committee adopted a ETUCE Position on Fair working conditions for Researchers to have an impact on the Council Recommendations on the Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe. This was produced based on the European Commission’s Roadmap and Council conclusions on Deepening the European Research Area: Providing researchers with attractive and sustainable careers and working conditions and making brain circulation a reality.

ETUCE believes in the importance of effective social dialogue with education trade unions. It is especially relevant with regards to the European Research Area (ERA). Researchers’ trade unions are concerned that the ERA should not be seen as a “unified research area” which disrespects the existing national structures, regulations and collective agreements on researchers’ employment, including their working conditions, contractual situation and pension systems, which is a national competence and falls into the remit of social dialogue with the researchers’ trade unions.

The newly adopted ETUCE position paper explains that it is positive that the Council aims to support better working conditions of the researchers and their “inclusive and supportive working environment”, but ETUCE regrets that the Council conclusions in relation to career development and working conditions of researchers were discussed and adopted with no or very limited consultation with the European and national researchers’ trade unions. To combat this, ETUCE asks the European Commission to involve them in developing a “taxonomy of Skills for researchers”.

Gender equality must be a priority action of the Pact of Research, and while ETUCE welcomes that the “uneven flow of researchers and brain circulation” was raised, it regrets that the Member States were not encouraged to improve the salary of researchers. This is linked to the deteriorating precariousness of researchers in universities and public research organisations, which has had a detrimental impact on the quality of research, development and innovation. The precariousness of researchers and the negative effects associated with this are outlined in the OECD report on reducing the precarity of academic research careers. These issues have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ETUCE member organisations worry for those researchers who are not allowed to work remotely and for those whose health and safety conditions are not ensured at the workplace. Therefore, the Pact for Research and Innovation should support the recovery of Europe from a social perspective and guarantee good working conditions. It is essential that health, safety and good working conditions of researchers are prioritised by national governments, especially during the COVID crisis.

ETUCE believes that ensuring public investment to public societal research is essential in relation to defining reforms and financial priorities. The European Commission’s policy should not motivate more business-research partnerships or make the ERA rely on the “funding” of companies. ETUCE is concerned that such a policy encourages further commercialisation in higher education and research instead of respecting academic freedom of researchers and institutional autonomy of universities and fostering ambitious long-term research. ETUCE calls on the European Commission to acknowledge that seeing research from an economic perspective does not support the principles of academic freedom and open science.

The ETUCE position on Fair working condition of researchers can be found here.