Short-term contracts driving teachers out of the profession

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THE EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) has warned that the increasing use of short-term contracts in Scottish schools is driving many newly qualified teachers out of the profession.

In her letter to Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf, EIS general secretary Angela Bradley wrote about the ‘urgent matter of precarity of employment for thousands of teachers in Scotland, whose professional and personal lives are in turmoil, as a result of the lack of job security that many were led to believe they would have by entering the teaching profession.’

Members had contacted the union during the summer holidays ‘in desperation at the prospect of no work when the new school session begins.’

This is the desperation faced by thousands of teachers and lecturers throughout the British educational system after decades of deliberate underfunding, and the drive for profits by universities which has seen short-term and zero-hour contracts run riot through the system.

The University and College Union is currently in a UK-wide dispute with 150 universities over the issue of the casualisation of jobs in higher education.

Over 90,000 university staff and one third of academics are on some form of casualised contract, including short-term, temporary and zero-hours.

In schools – which have seen their budgets cut to the bone by the Tories over 14 years of austerity – short-term contracts, especially for newly qualified teachers, are attractive.

They provide the opportunity to end employment when the contract runs out, usually at the end of term, cutting the salary budget at a stroke.

The use of zero-hours contracts is naturally prized in higher education for the ability to have staff who can be called in to cover teaching duties as and when required and only paid for the hours at work.

Teaching and lecturing, – professions always regarded as at the top of the stable employment table – have been turned over the years into just another ‘gig economy’ by a British capitalist system that regards education for the great mass of youth as a waste of money.

This contempt was made public by Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when last month he announced proposals to ‘limit the access’ to university degrees in England that didn’t churn out ‘high earners’.

This was a stark message to youth that higher education is a worthless dream, while at the same time spelling out to the teachers and lecturers that all they can look forward to is below poverty level pay increases and a life of job insecurity.

The bosses have found another use for short-term contracts – as a means of circumventing the law on the use of agency staff as strike breakers.

Last week, the High Court upheld the decision that Tory regulations allowing the use of agency staff to act as strike breakers are unlawful.

This ruling was a blow to the bosses of the homeless charity St Mungo’s who have been bringing in agency staff to break the long-running indefinite strike by its workers over a ‘pitiful’ pay offer of 2.25%.

St Mungo’s bosses moved quickly after the judgement.

The Novara Media website reported it had seen internal documents showing St Mungo’s are fast tracking converting existing agency workers, placing them on short-term contracts so allowing them to carry on with legal strike breaking.

Former agency workers would be placed onto fixed-term one month contracts in a move to circumvent the Court ruling, a move denounced by the Unite union as ‘appalling’.

What is appalling is that while teachers, lecturers and thousands of workers have shown their determination to fight against short-term contracts that are now being considered by the bosses as a means of subverting any law that restricts their right to smash strikes, the Trades Union Congress is doing absolutely nothing to organise the strength of the working class to put an end to this onslaught.

With the TUC meeting in Liverpool next month, the time is ripe for workers to force these union leaders to call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.

Come to the lobby of the TUC called by the WRP on Monday 11th September to demand the TUC calls a general strike – this is the only way forward for the working class.