Unions work towards securing equality for women

Brian Mahon

Part time work and unfair work practices are common across third level institutions, a leading trade union has claimed.

The campaign also aims to highlight the fact that women are overwhelmingly the victims of these precarious work practices.

A Higher Education Authority report for DCU states that 77 per cent of professional, management and support staff who work at DCU who are paid less than €45,000 are women.

Education organiser for SIPTU Karl Byrne said the union was “trying to put together some information” and that “the campaign is about trying to get an idea of the scale of the issues that are there, cause we have a lot of anecdotal stuff in relation to different parts of the sector.”

While not able to point to any specific issues in DCU, Byrne said SIPTU would look at any issues that arose on campus.

Amongst a number of other demands, SIPTU are calling for all directly employed staff categories and grades to have permanent, secure employment with access to progression, sick pay and pension.

They also want to end the ‘exploitation’ of postgraduate labour and a proper and secure grading structure for all teaching staff agreed with the unions.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign last week SIPTU Education Sector Chair, Maggie Ronayne, said: “Women are disproportionately impacted by the spread of precarious work practices in the education sector in Ireland from cleaners to catering staff to temporary administrative staff to lecturers.”

“The focus on gender equality in higher and further education has largely been on the promotion of more academic women to senior roles. However, precarious employment be it hourly paid, fixed term contract or outsourced working, is also an enormous but largely overlooked problem in the sector. Tackling precarious work is crucial to achieving gender equality and pay equity,” she continued.

The campaign comes as the HEA report also notes that only 30 per cent of DCU professors are women.

DCU appears to have a somewhat better track record in gender equality at the upper echelons of the university with the Governing Authority retaining an almost 50/50 gender balance and the Executive Committee also retaining an even split between the sexes.

In response to queries about how DCU was addressing the gender divide a DCU spokesperson said: “DCU consistently strives to advance gender equality amongst all aspects of university life.

The commitment to gender equality is encapsulated in DCU’s Strategic Plan 2017 – 2022…The University has undertaken many initiatives to promote gender equality such as DCU Women in Leadership Lecture series.”

The spokesperson added that DCU President Professor Brian MacCraith has committed not to serve on a public conference unless there is at least one women on the panel, not including the Chair.

Brian Mahon

Image Credit: Laura Horan