Posted tagged ‘double jobbing’

Seeking to prevent double jobbing

June 4, 2010

Three years ago a case came to light which caused a fair amount of embarrassment in the higher education sector, but which also still threatens to have further repercussions. The case was that of Fergal O’Malley, who it turns out had for over eight years been working simultaneously under two full-time contracts of employment, one with Athlone Institute of Technology and the other with NUI Galway. For a while neither institution was aware of this situation, until NUI Galway started to ask why his research performance was not better. At that point his double jobbing came to light, and he was found to have been earning €146,000 per annum between the two colleges. He then resigned, and since then various contractual consequences, including his pension entitlements, have been the subject of detailed analysis. Most recently the Presidents of the two institutions and the Chief Executive of the HEA have been explaining to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee how this had happened and what steps had been taken to prevent a recurrence.

In the public discussion of this case there has been, I think, something of an undercurrent suggesting that if it was possible for the man to do an allegedly full-time job in both institutions, then something must be wrong with academic workloads. However, while he was able to keep up this particular arrangement for a while, it was clear that in NUI Galway at least he was unable to maintain his full range of duties. Furthermore, if this were really something that could be happening on a larger scale, we would know that by now. His case is, I believe, pretty unique. Also both institutions (and others not involved) have tightened their procedures to ensure this will not happen again.

According to newspaper reports HEA Chief Executive Tom Boland, when asked at the Public Accounts Committee whether there could be other such cases, said that some staff might be ‘swinging the lead’ (and I confess I am not sure what that means), but that most worked very hard. I would put it more definitely than that. At this point, with huge pressures affecting third level staff due to budget and staffing cuts, overwhelmingly staff work very long hours, often more than 60 per week, and have workloads that are hugely demanding. One of the reasons why despite the cutbacks we are still able to function as best we can is because we retain a large amount of staff goodwill. If we now impose intrusive monitoring we will lose that also, and with it the ability to provide a reasonable quality of education. There is, as Tom Boland also said, a balance to be struck between academic freedom and what he called ‘a kind of managerialism’.

It has to be admitted that the O’Malley case didn’t do us any good. But we should also bear in mind that it was discovered, and that it has turned out to be pretty unique. An overreaction would not be helpful. On the other hand, universities and institutes do have an obligation to work with staff to ensure that this kind of conduct is not allowed to happen again.