The Roadmap to Part-time/Full-time Faculty Parity
P.D. Lesko | November 2003
Imagine a higher education system in which part-time faculty who taught just two hours or more would be entitled to pro-rata pay, and that holiday, leave, pension, sick pay, and other benefits extended to full-time faculty would be offered to part-time faculty on a pro-rata basis, as well. Imagine a higher education system in which fixed-term faculty, such as full-time temporary lecturers, visiting faculty, and sabbatical replacement faculty, on definite contracts, would be entitled to pro-rata pay and benefits. Further, a university's use of successive fixed-term and limited-term contracts longer than four years would be limited, and after four consecutive years the contract would automatically switch to an indefinite term of employment.
Teach as a part-time fractional (adjunct) or part-time hourly (visiting/full-time temporary/sabbatical replacement) faculty member anywhere in the European Union and you won't have to dream. For temporary faculty throughout the EU, pro-rata pay has been the law for the past 16 months.
In July of 2002, 770,000 part-time workers throughout England began to enjoy pro-rata pay and benefits thanks to the European Union Treaty of Rome's Part-Time Workers Directive and Framework Directive on Fixed Term Work. Government officials in the U.K. estimate that implementation of the two directives, which apply to part-time workers in all industries, costs £264 million a year ($444 million). Interestingly, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), a British university and college lecturers' union, pegs the total number of part-time workers in the country impacted by the directives significantly lower, at just 400,000 individuals. In addition, NATFHE officials estimate that to close the gap between full-time and part-time pro-rata pay in higher education has cost the government £50 million ($84 million), or an increase of one percent in the country's total yearly spending on higher education. It has cost the British government, on average, $4,296 per faculty member to implement the Part-Time Workers Directive.
According to the British government's 1999 "Summary of Recommendations from the Independent Review of Higher Education Pay and Conditions" almost half of Britain's lecturers-45% (23,000)-are employed on part-time contracts. Of those, prior to the implementation of the Part-Time Workers Directive, only 15% were employed on pro-rata contracts. The remaining 85% were employed on part-time hourly (fixed-term) contracts. In a 2002 NATFHE document on pay and working conditions, officials were able to use the implementation of the Part-Time Workers Directive and the Framework Directive on Fixed Term Work to reduce the use of part-time hourly paid contracts in higher education institutions. Furthermore, NATFHE officials state as a goal for all regular part-time staff to be employed on fractional contracts on pro-rata pay and terms and conditions. "In furtherance of this aim," according to the document on pay and working conditions, "NATFHE has negotiated conversion agreements (with a) number of institutions to enable the transfer of part-time staff onto pro-rata contracts. For irregular part-time staff, NATFHE is calling for a more transparent rate of pay, and terms of employment."
Thanks to the European Court of Justice and the body's interpretation of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, part-time faculty in the U.K. went from earning 50 percent of what their full-time colleagues earned (Senior Lecturers can earn up to £36,675 per year ($61,614)) to earning pro-rata salaries and benefits. For fixed-term faculty, in October 2002, new regulations governing the employment of fixed-term employees were implemented following an EU directive. According to an article recently published in Britain's Guardian newspaper, "October's legislation was to prevent fixed-term staff from being treated less favorably than peers in permanent work, and to stop the potential abuse of fixed-term employees by limiting the duration of a series of their contracts to four continuous years after October 1. After that, said the regulations, the 'contract automatically becomes indefinite.'"
Admittedly, there are some problems with the EU Part-Time Workers Directive. The law is not enforced uniformly by universities throughout the EU. In Italy, for example, the country's 1,500 foreign language lecturers have been fighting since 1989 for equal treatment by their employers. Italian lecturers enjoy indefinite contracts and higher pay than their non-Italian colleagues do. In 1989, foreign lecturer Pilar Allué sued the University of Venice in order to be classified as a non-temporary faculty member, and won her case. However, in a move that can only be described as Machiavellian, the Italian state interpreted the Court's decision as abolishing the six-year limit (one annual contract + five renewals) on the employment of foreign university teachers but as condoning temporary annual contracts. Pilar Allué challenged this misinterpretation. Four and a half years would pass before the Court ruling in Allué 2. This judgement emphatically stated that the ruling in Allué 1 could only be interpreted to mean that all time limits on the contracts of foreign university teachers were discriminatory while Italian counterparts were employed on open-ended contracts.
In 1995, Italy changed its law on the employment of foreign teachers in the universities. The law demoted the teachers to a newly created rank of "collaborators and linguistic experts." This new law, as applied by the universities, constituted a new employment relationship. Lecturers were faced with the forfeiture of the acquired rights to seniority payments, raises, and pension contributions they had accumulated over the years of previous service to their institutions. This time, the European Commission stepped in and sued in an attempt to force Italy to comply with the Allué European Court of Justice Ruling. In 2001, The European Court of Justice gave its ruling in Commission v. Italy and found yet again that Italy's discriminatory treatment of foreign university teachers violated Article 39 (formerly Article 48) of the Treaty of Rome.
Unfortunately for the country's foreign lecturers, there is no happy ending to this story. In January of 2002, the European Court of Justice, at the behest of the Commission, initiated proceedings to impose a daily fine on Italy, which has continued to ignore its rulings. It is the last resort for the Commission to enforce compliance with European law. The proceedings are currently at the first phase, the letter of formal notice stage. Even more disturbing still is a recent draft bill presented to the Italian Senate on May 16, 2002. Parts of the draft bill would defy all of the three rulings of the European Court of Justice. The relevant paragraphs read:
Paragraph 7. Universities' recruitment personnel can, on the basis of documented teaching needs, plan for the presence of an adequate number of foreign teachers, to be engaged on fixed-term private law contracts for a duration not exceeding four years. Such contracts may be renewed once only.
Paragraph 8. Possession of the contracts referred to in paragraph 7 in no case gives rise to open-ended employment contracts.
Despite the obvious difficulties associated with the implementation of the law across the European Union, the Part-Time Workers Directive, as well as the Framework Directive on Fixed Term Work provide part-time and temporary college faculty job protection, fair pay, and access to health, vacation, and retirement benefits. It may also provide adjunct advocates in the United States, perhaps, with a clear model to-once and for all-resolve the issue of temporary faculty overuse in our own higher education system. Higher education officials estimate that to provide equal pay and benefits to our nation's part-time and full-time temporary faculty could cost upwards of $3 billion each year.
However, keep in mind that the total amount spent on higher education last year topped $700 billion. Furthermore, the states and federal government spent over $112 billion dollars last year on higher education. It is clear that by reallocating a miniscule percentage of the total higher education spending in the United States, the 500,000 part-time and temporary faculty in this country could enjoy pro-rata pay and access to benefits. By passing a federal law similar to England's Part-Time Workers Directive, the United States Congress could stamp out a misguided labor practice that has spread like a communicable disease throughout our higher education system. Imagine that.
P.D. Lesko is the Publisher and Executive Editor of the Adjunct Advocate magazine. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has taught college writing at universities both in the United States and in Italy.