The EIS has identified a number of serious concerns regarding the widespread use of so-called ‘Zero-Hours’ contracts within the Higher Education Sector in Scotland. The EIS recently carried out what it believes to be the most detailed Freedom of Information (Scotland) request on zero hours contracts in the Scottish HE sector and has been shocked by its findings.
The EIS findings illustrate the irregular and wide variation in the way that all Scottish Universities use ‘zero hours contracts.’ The survey highlights that all HE institutions in Scotland do use zero-hours contracts to a greater or lesser extent.
The results of the EIS survey also identify the Universities that give zero hours contract holders as few employment rights as legally possible – and the Universities that give more employment rights.
In the worst examples, the EIS findings highlight a number of serious issues, including potential sex discrimination against women in the use of zero hours contracts (since the majority of zero hours contract holders are women), no occupational sick pay, no occupational maternity and paternity pay, limited pensions, and significantly less annual leave than permanent employees.
Furthermore every Scottish University gave payment in lieu of holidays (rolled up holiday pay) rather than paid time off, a practice that the EIS believes is unlawful since Employers should pay their employees at the time they take their leave.
Commenting on the survey findings, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "The results of the EIS FOI reinforce our view that zero-hours contracts have no place in Scotland’s Higher Education Institutions. The EIS opposes the use of zero hours contracts as they create an unbalanced or one sided relationship between the organisation and the individual contract holder who may be exploited by the organisation. Zero hours contracts rob individuals of full and fair employment rights and prevent them from gaining employment stability or financial security.”
The EIS-ULA President Dr Nick McKerrell said "These findings illustrate the invidious nature of zero hours contracts and will make us redouble our efforts to eliminate them from the Scottish Higher Education sector. Zero hours contracts should be replaced by fractional open ended contracts and, in limited cases, by fixed term contracts for unexpected short term staffing requirements."
"There is no justification in having a two tier workforce in which a significant number of staff are denied stability, security and sick pay. This would create further division in an already embattled sector."
The EIS, together with the other HE trade unions included zero hours contracts as part of the 2013-14 Pay Claim. The UK University Employers Association (UCEA) has stated that zero hours contracts can only be looked if the trade unions accept a 1% pay offer. The UK University Employers Association has rejected a recent EIS request to look at zero hours contracts independently of the 1% pay offer.
The EIS will be raising zero hours contracts in Universities, as part of the 2013-14 Pay claim and under the heading of "Casualisation of the Workforce” at the University Sector Advisory Forum chaired by the Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell. The EIS will also continue to support individual members who find themselves subject to these invidious contracts.
The EIS submitted evidence on zero hours contracts to the Scottish Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament.
The key findings of the EIS survey include:
*Note, the EIS uses the term "University” to include all Higher Education Institutions – and the term therefore includes the Glasgow School of Art, Royal Scottish Conservatoire and SRUC were part of the FoI.
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