It is a well-known fact that teachers and lecturers do not get the best deal when it comes to working conditions. Most of the teaching staff in Britain do not have stable and secure jobs, but rather the lack of government regulation and protection in this sector means that many workers in the education industry have a number of exclusively temporary job contracts.
These contracts are extremely low-paying and can be terminated on a simple whim of the employers. Sadly, this is the only option that most of the lecturers and teachers can resort to, as only a small number of higher education establishments offer permanent jobs. This has been an ongoing problem for decades, and, as of recently, has escalated into massive strikes all over the United Kingdom from the University and College Union.
However, the planned strikes have been interrupted by the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus, which endangers the positive job prospects of teachers and lecturers even more. In fact, the outbreak of the virus has already resulted in numerous lay-offs by such universities as Bristol and Newcastle. Such developments increase the pressure on the teaching staff across the UK, creating an atmosphere of extreme anxiety and anger between teachers and lecturers.
What Is the Reason Behind the Strikes?
Being a teacher in the United Kingdom is basically partaking in the gig economy that is the British higher education system. Most of the teaching staff in universities and colleges are kept on temporary contracts. There is a policy to protect higher education lecturers by forcing the educational institutions to transition their temporary staff to permanent after four years of continuous work on the temporary contract. However, the fact that most contracts are term-based lets universities evades the law.
No higher education establishment wants to really admit this situation, as most of the universities take advantage of this loophole. This technicality allows universities and colleges to employ the crucial staff at reduced pay and without giving any benefits of a permanent job. Sadly, not even the “veteran” teachers and lecturers are immune to this.
Easily thousands of teachers with more than twenty years of experience still have to balance and jump between various jobs. Over the span a couple of days, they can be a lecturer, then educate as a personal tutor, collaborate as a curriculum developer, and then transition into being an essay writer UK based creating copies for various mediums.
Many of the teaching staff members across the country are subject to this kind of life because only jumping from contract to contract can provide a sufficient amount of funds to survive in Britain as a lecturer (mainly). On the universities’ side of things, although they evade the government policy of transitioning their workers into permanent positions, the workers themselves are intrinsic to the operation of the educational establishment.
This means if the “temporary” employees would really be let go and new ones would be employed each year, this would disrupt the operation of most universities in the UK completely. Exactly this ongoing problem for decades has erupted into massive strikes all over the country.
How Coronavirus Shook Things Up Even More
What COVID-19 has done to this situation? It has only exposed the insecurity and vulnerability, which the teaching staff employees continuously face.
The most recent developments show that the “temporary” teachers, lecturers, and teacher assistants are working overtime to help transition university education onto online systems by working additional hours, often beyond their pay, and by delaying their own career development (like working on their personal academic researches and papers). After working tirelessly, the temporary staff is being let go or their contracts being suspended for an unknown amount of time. This infuses tons of confusion and fear into the situation.
New Policies Have to Be Introduced Urgently
Seeing how the unethical treatment of teaching staff members only increases in the wake of the global pandemic, numerous new policies dedicated to protecting the temporary staff are being recommended to the government. One of the loudest voices regarding this problem is Jo Grady, the secretary of the University and College Union.
She has created a plan to protect both the higher education establishments, as well as all of their employee, and directed it to the government in an official letter. The main points raised in the plan are as follows:
- The universities and colleges have to stop fighting for students and let the government control the admissions to the universities.
- The highly ambitious plans of restarting business as usual in September should also be let go. There is no way of predicting whether the aftereffects of coronavirus will be completely dealt with by that time.
- Preparations should be made to continue the online format education in the autumn, as well as develop a solution to transition into renewing classes smoothly.
- Significant funding of universities and colleges should occur to stop higher education from closing and to stop them from making temporary staff redundant.
The Government Needs to Take Action
There is no saying what the British government will decide in the end. Additionally, if the government decides to utilize the proposed plan, there is still the question of whether all universities will collaborate in a combined effort to mitigate the effects of coronavirus.
There were no strong directives to higher education institutions from the government at the start of the outbreak, which leads to differing policies of universities. Some have already let go of most of their staff, while others are starting to consider the unethical decision of letting people go. Simply said, the prospects for university teachers and lecturers are not great at all.