A Letter from Jehan

I have that rare thing, a permanent academic post – I’m an associate professor in Switzerland. But neoliberal forms of labor exploitation and precarization are structured into my job on many levels. First, rather than a full position, I am employed part-time at 40% of a full position – the threshold that allows my school to avoid paying my health insurance. Since my part-time salary is not enough to live in Switzerland (the cost of living in that country would require a 100% position), I have to fly there and back from Greece, where I live, at my own expense, and also have to pay my accommodation in Switzerland while I am teaching. Over ten years, these expenses have averaged a full one-third of my salary. The school routinely shifts other costs onto me by manipulating administrative rules. For example, each year I am required to submit proof of research and publications, namely conferences attended and articles published. If I give a lecture in Copenhagen, or go to a conference in London, my school escapes paying my flights and accommodation, since I am flying to and from Greece, rather than to and from Geneva (where I cannot afford to live). This means that if I go to a conference, the costs could amount to another third of what I make that month. Moreover, the surveillance of faculty has been steadily intensified: we now are required to fill out calendars detailing all the days and hours we are present at school, doing what kind of work. (We are passively resisting this by simply not filling out and returning the forms.) This emphasis on 'hours' and quantified evaluation is transforming a professional job into wage labor, bringing public teaching and research more directly under forms of labor discipline and undercutting the autonomy of public education institutions. I realize that my situation is far less precarious than that of many others, and that the precarization of my ‘permanent part-time’ position is merely a small part of a general and on-going neoliberal offensive aiming to enclose, privatize and extract maximum value from all remaining public assets. All forms and degrees of precarious employment, divisive competition among workers, and coerced, uncompensated labor need to be resisted collectively, until precarity as a logic of exploitation is rolled back and abolished, full stop.