Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

UCU Takes Aim at Zero-Hours Game: News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

UCU Takes Aim at Zero-Hours Game: News

Article excerpt

Scholars go hungry as casualised contracts spread, congress hears. Jack Grove reports.

Academics on zero-hours contracts have been driven to go "bin diving" for food because they are struggling to make ends meet, the University and College Union's congress has heard.

Liza van Zyl, retention officer at Cardiff University, told delegates in Brighton that she had been astonished by the number of hourly paid lecturers who had asked her if they could take part in "food-scavenging workshops" advertised on campus.

Speaking on 29 May, Ms van Zyl said the popularity of classes on how to look through supermarket bins highlights the "gross misuse of zero-hours contract staff, which is driving people into destitution".

"In a Russell Group university, our colleagues are not earning enough to live," she added.

The issue of lecturers on zero-hours contracts, who are not guaranteed a fixed number of working hours per week, was a major topic of conversation at the congress, which ran from 29 to 31 May.

Mike Cushman, research fellow at the London School of Economics' department of management, said there was a growing number of research staff on zero-hours contracts, with many not even realising that they were on terms that did not guarantee fixed incomes.

"One researcher had a contract he thought was worth Pounds 5,000, but ... was only paid Pounds 500," he said.

The same researcher had been unable to get a mortgage because his contract was essentially worthless, Mr Cushman added.

"This is a serious researcher with a PhD who is down on band 2 on the income (scale)," he said, referring to the salary of less than Pounds 14,000 a year received by his colleague. …

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