The new course has started in a Spanish university without having solved the precariousness of the associate teaching staff, which represents more than a quarter of its teaching staff and in many public universities it exceeds the maximum of 40% allowed by law. The Ministry of Universities keeps negotiations open with all the sectors involved to approve as soon as possible a new bill and a Statute of Teaching and Research Personnel (PDI), but the unions and the association that represents this temporary teaching staff still see a long way off an agreement and, even, they fear an increase in precariousness with the second draft that the Government has presented to them.
In Spanish public universities, more than 25,000 associate professors teach, according to the study carried out by the Observatory of the University System , which reflects that in the 2018-19 academic year this temporary teaching figure had increased by 25.6% compared to 2013-14 . The report of this research platform also reveals that the universities of 12 autonomous communities exceed the limit of 40% set for temporary teaching staff by the Organic Law of Universities (LOU) and seven of them exceed 50%, that is, that have more teachers hired than civil servants.
The authors of the study entitled ‘Associate teaching staff, professional experience or precariousness?’ attribute this notable increase to three main causes: the limits established by the rate of replacement of personnel after the economic crisis, the financial difficulties of the universities that reduced their income by 18.4% between 2009 and 2016, and the low cost per class hour of associate teaching staff compared to that of permanent full-time. And as a consequence, according to the Observatory, there has been a situation of “illegality” in most of the Spanish public universities due to the “excessive use of the figure of associate teaching staff”, implanted by the LOU with the aim of incorporating the University teaching to professionals of recognized competence in the public or private sphere, who are hired for a part-time dedication, provided that they prove the exercise of a professional activity outside the academic sphere of the university.
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The Minister of Universities, Manuel Castells, in his first appearance in Congress to detail the general lines of his mandate, considered the situation of this teaching staff a “scandal” and promised to end their precariousness. In July, he presented a first draft of the Statute of Teaching and Research Personnel and in August another one of a bill that modifies the part of the LOU that affects the PDI. His ministry has already held two meetings with the unions and the State Association of Associated Teachers, and also with rectors and heads of autonomous communities to analyze these drafts. And after the last meeting that the Secretary General for Universities, José Manuel Pingarrón, held last Thursday with the trade union organizations for the convalescence of the minister,rejuvenate templates and end their precariousness.
However, unions and the association of associate teachers do not see it that way. Moreover, they speak of “quite remote positions” regarding the regulation of the PDI and, even, of a setback between the first and second draft submitted to the negotiations that could lead to a “greater precariousness” of this hired teaching staff. In general, they allege that the articles of the bill do not clearly substantiate what is stated forcefully in the preamble of this regulatory change and that, therefore, everything could be left on paper.
A preamble to the law in which, among other things, it is emphasized: “It is not possible for the University to carry out its functions with dignity and efficiency when a part of the teaching and research staff is affected by an alarming degree of job insecurity. Precariousness that it manifests itself in various contractual figures, and in a very significant way in a sector of teachers employed as associate teaching staff without their working conditions responding to the legal definition of said figure, often with low salaries “. And in which it is added below: “a significant percentage of this associate teaching staff, despite their type of contract, has carried out research and management tasks and legitimately aspires to develop their professional careers at the University,It is actually an inappropriate use of a contractual figure created for other purposes and to which some universities have been forced to resort as a means of survival to cover teaching needs in the face of public disinvestment in recent years “.
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Manuel Ortega, head of Universities at FeSP-UGT, a union that sees the approval of the PDI Statute as a priority before undertaking a reform of an organic law with an uncertain political path in Congress, speaks of “disappointment” and “disagreement” after two meetings with the Ministry, among other reasons because they do not appreciate in the articles of the bill what is established in a preamble that, in this way, could remain as a mere declaration of intentions, and because they believe that the Ministry is paying more attention to the interests of rectors and autonomous communities than to the representation of the workers.
According to Ortega, the differences maintained by the unions with the proposal of the ministry to create a teaching career parallel to the civil servant with the introduction of new figures such as the hired professor, is added the complication of the requirements for the accreditation of the teaching staff doctor, the reduction in the number of member loans or the lack of an economic report that specifies how much these reforms will cost at a time when the Government is also talking about freezing the salaries of civil servants.
“Our position is now quite far” from what the ministry proposes, warns the head of the University of CCOO, Encina González. This majority union in the sector sees behind the draft law a “neoliberal and utilitarian model” , because, in its opinion, it assumes a temporary rate for teachers of up to 40% of the full-time equivalent workforce, which would be higher if part-time positions and Health Sciences teachers are not included. In González’s opinion, the changes and the new figures of teachers contemplated in the project’s articles do not fix the current problems and, in some cases, even make them worse.