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They need a union. They really do. March 15, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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From this morning’s Irish Times:

As many as one in five professionals work a full extra three months for free each year, a new study has found.
The survey of more than 2,700 employees shows 73 per cent of Irish professionals work longer than their contracted hours, with around one in five working as many as 10 extra hours a week.

Just on that. I hate that term ‘professional’. I’ve been told entirely straight-faced that the line of work I’m in is only done by ‘professionals’ and as a corollary of that ‘we’ don’t join unions. I never found that convincing, it always seemed like a rationalisation of implicit or explicit exploitation. Which is probably why I’m a long time union member – and yeah, I get that unions are problematic, but the alternative, individual atomised workers having to fight their corner alone in a work place is to my mind self-evidently more problematic by a massive degree. Quite apart from which what other force in a workplace has anything like the social heft to push back against employers?

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1. Gewerkschaftler - March 15, 2016

Check.

‘Professional’ was always employed by slimy management as a kind of flattery, I assume.

Another euphemism of the bosses that’s wearing thin as the middle class jobs become scarcer and more precarious.

But the fact remains that these workers have lost a tradition of organisation if they ever had one, often don’t share a workplace, and are thus harder to (self)organise. None on which is an argument not to keep working at it.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2016

+1 again. Its very difficult organising but it has to be done and I know from direct personal experience of doing it twice in ten years with diffrebt nt but initially very hostile groups of workers it can be. Nothing concentrates the mind like employers f’ing people over.

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Jonah - March 15, 2016

Professional as distinct from those of us who remain loyal to the corinthian philosophy of working as amateurs.

Agree with your main point. We went from having under a third of all employees (including senior management) unionised to more than two-thirds when pay cuts and redundancies came on the agenda.

The reluctance there was less about professionalisation, though that was a factor, and more about a lack of clarity over what you got for a fairly substantial monthly payment.

It was really brought home to me when a union stalwart, and former shop steward in this organisation, left because with a young family and a low income he simply couldn’t afford the contribution anymore.

If you tell someone, professional or not, that we need 20 euro a month from your salary you need something better than an appeal to vague lefty ideology and an assurance that if you need us, we’ll be there.

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2. Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

We get the same thing trying to organize academics, who also have the added nonsense of being told that what they do is a `vocation’, so they should be glad to do it for nothing.

One of my union’s senior staff members (started in the shipyards, went into education, crossed over into union full-time work) said he once had a member object that he was “proletarianizing” the members.

“You’re being proletarianized alright, but it’s the employers that are doing it.”

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sonofstan - March 15, 2016

It’s been instructive in my institiution how many of the ‘vocational’ academics who thought unions were for proles have suddenly joined up once phrases like ‘root and branch’ restructuring began to appear in SMT briefings.

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Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repenteth …

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2016

+1. Though there just on that the social stratification in academia is astounding, cleaning maintenance or administered staff are often disregarded – at a recent event in a certain institution I know well there were separate buses for lecturers and others etc…

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Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

Absolutely, and I think part of the resistance to unionization amongst some academics comes from not wanting to be like “them”.

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sonofstan - March 15, 2016

Although talking to someone from Unison at our place, the level of union membership is even worse among non-academic staff – the age profile is much younger for a start, which may have something to do with it.

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Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

That’s part of it, though in a post-92 Unison will tend to cover a lot of academic-related staff where in a pre-92 (old AUT institutions) UCU would cover them.

Another reason for low Unison density in universities is that many of their potential members are on such low pay they can’t afford the sub.

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3. CMK - March 15, 2016

Well the ‘P’ in SIPTU is for ‘professional’, though it could as well be for ‘pisspoor’ or ‘pathetic’.

Academic is a dead profession walking. 20 years time they’re be a few tenured profs and everyone else, to a man and woman, will be on contract with no or very poor conditions. The rate at which PhD’s are being pumped out, and the high requirements to even get a one or two year contract job are such that the labour economics of academic are decisively in favour of employers. Allied to that we have the fact that the vast bulk of the currently tenured full time academics are decidedly sniffy about organisation and are quite prepared to exploit younger novice academics, often ruthlessly and unscrupulously. I think the figure in the US is currently 75% of teaching staff are adjunct’s – that’s the target here for university managements who are, after all, running businesses. I know of one university where academic union members were shocked to find out there were over 1000 zero hour or low hours lecturing staff where there are just over 500 permanent staff.

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sonofstan - March 15, 2016

That’s certainly the case in the US and my experience in Ireland bears it out as a trend, but, curiously, in a post ’92 here in the UK, people are very nervous about using grad students (not that we have many) or ALs because it’s not ‘value for money’ – you need a full-timer in front of you if you’re paying 9 grand, is the mantra.

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Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

*But*, post-92s pay a grade lower than pre-92s. A Senior Lecturer in a post-92 is paid at the rate of a Lecturer in a pre-92.

Certainly, in the pre-92s the casualization of teaching is quite widespread. It varies between institutions, but it’s not unusual now for much of a student’s direct contact to be with PGs or precarious zero-hours-contract staff. The only time they engage with full time permanent staff might be in lectures.

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sonofstan - March 15, 2016

*But*, post-92s pay a grade lower than pre-92s. A Senior Lecturer in a post-92 is paid at the rate of a Lecturer in a pre-92.

But our students pay the same eh?

I was reading a report somewhere which compared the outcomes of UGs largely taught by PGs and those taught by tenured staff in the US and the former tended to do better. Teachers are sometimes better, or at least less browbeaten at the outset of their careers and identify more with the students.

On pay disparity, I was idly browsing the vacancies at an IT in Ireland and was shocked – shocked! – at the pay compared to *equivalent* university positions. And a huge teaching load to boot.

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Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

Naturally students all pay the same.

The US case is interesting because a lot of students have almost no direct contact with tenured staff, who are actually spending most of their time on prestigious research work. In the UK, the equivalent is those universities which use the faces of telly-dons on their publicity but omit to mention that they rarely set foot in a lecture theatre.

Pay disparities: if the pre-92s could get away with it, they would cheerfully level down. As for Irish academic pay, before the recent changes to pay scales, a couple of my colleagues were genuinely shocked at what academics got in Ireland: the top of the lecturer grade (admittedly a very long grade with a low starting point) is roughly equal to the top of the Senior Lecturer grade in a UK pre-92, or if you like, just short of the minimum for a UK professor.

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sonofstan - March 15, 2016

Yeah, the high end is high, but the low is, well, low

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Michael Carley - March 15, 2016

And there is still tenure.

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AcademicMarxismFTW - March 18, 2016

I wouldn’t be too hard on the current academics. As someone that has tried to organize graduate students to unionize (ha ha ah) and is currently seeing how part-time staff are used to undercut and prevent the replacement of retiring fulltime academic staff I can assure you that the problem does not rest all on one side.

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4. dmoc - March 15, 2016

I met an old Irish co-worker when in the animation union meetup in Burbank last year (I’m not a member, just the way my career worked out, it’s arbitrary if you end up in a union shop or not). Anyway, we got to talking with the outgoing head of the Union.

Friend (who is a Ned Flanders type of nice guy) said that he usually put in an extra 10-15 hours a week on his job, to make an “extra effort”. The outgoing union boss (gently) explained that if 3 or 4 people did likewise, they were doing work that should rightly have been an extra job, meaning some poor slob was unemployed as a result. I don’t know if it made an impression or not; hope it did.

Scab labour is too hard a word for this level of cluelessness, but stuffing it to your fellows for the good of a multinational corporation is pretty dim stuff.

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5. yourcousin - March 15, 2016

I would consider the use of “scab” to be a bit too much. In the trades a scab gets dealt with rather harshly. I think a more appropriate term might be that of a “Scissor bill”, the worker who would cut off his nose to spite his face.

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