Friday, April 25, 2014

creeping precariousness

reading the precariat charter and its increasingly obvious why the usual tension between conservative and socialist parties is failing everyone. to translate this into UK University "employee" terms, the increasing casualisation (e.g. uncertain contracts of research assistants, unspecified hours/duties of faculty, not to mention anciliary staff - e.g. in our canteen on zero hour contracts) isn't being fought by any political incumbent group...

pathetic lip service by the tories and even more pathetic by labour, just doesn't cut it-

here's a simple example why even (what Guy Standing calls the "Salariat") the senior academics aren't immune from this creeping evil:-

each year, I fill in a Time Allocation Survey, where I  am given a random week to choose, and I write down the hours I spend on a variety of tasks, loosely grouped into teaching, research, administration, including preparation etc

so then this is collated and normalized to some standard euro-week (e.g. 37.5 hours) to avoid revealing the fact that we're working more than legal hours (under working time directive etc)  - for me, I can't find a week in the last 10 years of filling in these forms where I see less than 65 hours.

I don't mind "working" 65 hours  - actually, (as per Standing's book) a lot of this time is "ludic" or something some people wouldn't regard as work, but do pay me ok for - on the other hand, a bunch of stuff people do regard as work (pointless timesheets for euro projects) is not accounted for in my list of duties

lets not even get started on billing my time on research contracts

then there's the erosion not just of our salaries, but of the terms&conditions (e.g. pension scheme - our pathetic union bargained away parity with civil service and medics 25+ years ago in exchange for retaining a final salary pension - well, good luck with that thin end of the wedge, and that's going too slowly).

The conservatives who welcome this flexibility do so under some false notion that the ability to move jobs at a moments notice, or be moved, more like, means people are motivated to work harder - no evidence whatsoever of that - the uncertainty just means people spend more time worried/stressed, which is the opposite of conducive to effective thinking/working.

The socialists think that everyone should be doing labour, and have no respect for the fact that most people spend most their time doing things that matter, but aren't 19th century industrial revolution style factory-make-work any more, so the majority of our effort (e.g. caring for relatives, counciling stressed colleagues, helping plan stuff, clearing up after a staff party) is not accounted its social value.

The charter (linked above) calls for a new Voice for this (i.e. a renewal of collectives that can speak (and presumably bargain) for us - this is interesting - the various movements (indignados, occupy etc) are namechecked as emergent pieces that might lead to such a thing, which would be good - one thing (seeing the many people going through UK University right now, exiting with debts higher than I ever had in my life, with, in some cases, several years of unemployed or unpaid employment to look forward to), the constituency for such a movement is not  the proletariat anymore (if there's much left of such a thing anyhow), but contains a large fraction of pretty well educated people (even more so in, say, Spain and Greece).

Interesting times....

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