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Over a quarter of teaching workforce in further education on insecure contracts

9 June 2017

Over a quarter (28%) of the teaching workforce in further education are employed on insecure precarious contracts, with the majority of staff (69%) on hourly-paid contracts, according to a new report released by UCU today.

The report, Precarious teachers: insecure work in the English further education sector shows that, in 2016, 19 colleges employed more than half their staff on precarious contracts. It also warns that a "shadow further education sector" is springing up as colleges turn to wholly-owned subsidiary companies to hire teachers on inferior terms and conditions.

UCU says these companies employ staff on casualised "worker" contracts which deny them the same rights as permanent staff. These rights include protection from unfair dismissal, the right to redundancy pay and maternity leave, and being part of the pension scheme.

The union has warned that the emerging "hire and fire" culture in further education not only adversely affects teachers, leaving them vulnerable to financial hardship, but is to the detriment of students' learning and ultimately weakens institutions.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Research has shown that poor working conditions for staff mean poor learning conditions for students. The easy hire and fire culture that comes with precarious contracts and farming out teaching to subsidiary companies is a false economy that weakens educational institutions.

'We believe that these companies are being set up in a blatant attempt to avoid proper pay and conditions for staff, and to undermine the work of trade unions. It is a shameful practice which leaves staff worse off.

'UCU is calling on the further education employers to work in partnership with the union to tackle precarious work and build viable teaching careers that can underpin high quality further education.'

The report was compiled based on responses to a Freedom of Information request sent to every further education college in England and Wales. A total of 201 colleges returned data which showed insecurely employed college staff are heavily concentrated at the lower levels of the career path.

UCU had written to 220 FE colleges in January 2016 seeking a commitment to negotiate more secure employment for teaching staff but only 30 responded positively. The union has been able to reach agreement with South Downs College and is now in positive discussions with others.