“It is a setback of ten years. You become a doctor, you are supposed to have a somewhat better contract and the first thing they give you is a scholarship and you have not paid Social Security for two years.” The Red Tide of research is outraged because four public universities (Seville, La Laguna, Huelva and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) have decided to offer the Margarita Salas grants created by the Ministry of Universities with Covid funds as scholarships or “travel bags “instead of as contracts, as stipulated by the Science Law since 2011.
The consequence of this decision, explains Elisa Fernández, researcher and CCOO representative in the Red Tide, is that the recipients of these grants – researchers with a doctorate already done – will spend two or three years without paying Social Security contributions, among other issues . “After 40 years of fighting to make this figure disappear [la del becario] in favor of contracts, this is to take steps back in the recognition of the labor rights of the youngest research personnel “, denounces the Red Tide.” We are doctors and suddenly we go down to have scholarships “, adds Fernández.” The FPU or FPI [las ayudas que dan Educación y Universidades a investigadores predoctorales que están trabajando en su tesis] they are contracts, similar figures from private foundations or the same universities are contracts too “, explains what they understand as a setback.
This situation has occurred because in the call published by the Ministry of Universities in the BOE it was not specified how these aid should be offered, so that each rector has chosen its model. According to an analysis of the Red Tide of the calls made by the 50 public universities, only the four mentioned have opted for this formula; the rest offer contracts with Social Security contributions and the ability to generate unemployment, among other things.
Ernesto Pereda, vice-rector of the University of La Laguna, explains that in his case –after agreeing to it with the University of Las Palmas, he says– the decision was made because they considered that the aid money was scarce if they were offered as contracts for the labor costs that they imply, that with these conditions there was the possibility that aid would be lost if a researcher found a better contract and resigned due to incompatibility, and that they would have liked to give the winners the possibility to choose how to receive the aid ( scholarship or contract), but that the rigidity of the call did not allow it.
“Taking them out as contracts to go to Madrid or Barcelona, for example, they stayed at 1,500 euros a month. Just 2,000 euros if you go abroad, which we consider to be quite little,” he explains. Also, he adds, the particular Canarian casuistry has been considered: “In Madrid you can ask for this help and simply change your university, metro line. Or go from Segovia every day. Not here, people have to go outside,” argues the greater need, in his opinion, to put more cash in the hands of researchers.
In addition, the vice-rector argues, the ministry itself has similar grants, the José Castillejo, for young doctors who go abroad and are compatible with other contracts. “The money available for the stay is increased and abandonment is reduced, because they can be made compatible. And if someone renounces these aid the first year we can still recover something, but if they do the second they are lost,” he explains.
The Ministry of Universities declines to assess the issue because it is an issue that concerns each university, they explain. From the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) it is manifested in the same line and indicates that these decisions “are adjusted to rights and legal”. University sources add that “what would have been desirable would have been a common framework and with certainty marked by the call.”
The Margarita Salas are one of the three legs of the aid package designed by the Ministry of Universities with COVID funds for the training of university teachers and the attraction of national and foreign talent to Spanish campuses, endowed in total with 387 million euros. These grants are intended to improve the training and mobility of people who have read the thesis in the last two years, so they will be requested mostly by young people, but not necessarily. This line will account for half of the total aid to be granted by Universities.
There will be 1,800 grants with a gross monthly salary of 3,500 euros for stays abroad and 2,800 for stays in Spain and with a duration of two or three years. In addition, it is necessary to request the incorporation to a different center from the one in which the doctorate was carried out “so that they change their horizon and are trained in another institution,” according to Universities at the time. In other words, to avoid university inbreeding. There is another condition: whoever takes advantage of an aid to study abroad must return to a Spanish university for the last year of their stay. The other two figures are to re-qualify the Research Teaching Staff and to attract talent to the Spanish university.
The Red Tide researchers regret that the decision of these four universities represents a setback of a decade after many years of struggle to make research grants, both predoctoral and postdoctoral, contracts instead of scholarships. The differences between one and the other have already been pointed out: Social Security contributions, ability to generate unemployment, etc. In fact, the scientists managed to have their claim met and in the Science Law of 2011 an article was included, number 20, which reads: “The aid programs of the Public Administrations that aim to carry out research tasks in regime for the provision of services by research personnel who are not permanent employees or career civil servants, must require the employment of the personnel by the beneficiary entities of the aid for which they are going to provide services “. The Red Tide interprets that these calls are in direct violation of the law. Pereda, from the University of La Laguna, assures that his legal services guarantee that they are not.
“Returning to the dynamics of research grants, without a contract or contribution to Social Security, after 40 years of struggle to make this figure disappear in favor of contracts, is to take steps back in the recognition of the labor rights of research personnel younger, “laments the Red Tide.
Regarding the arguments put forward by the universities that this increases the amount that the beneficiaries will receive, they call it “despicable”, and add that “it also makes them compatible with [otros] postdoctoral contracts, in such a way that they leave the door open for the beneficiaries to have a contract at the same time in order to prevent them from abandoning aid if they get one. “The researcher Fernández is perplexed on the other side of the telephone line:” The other An excuse that you do not have to pay the employer’s Social Security rates like that is like when they give you the money in black or they do not charge you VAT. Taking into account the precariousness and temporary nature that we have in the sector, we want to quote, “he reasons.” In addition, without a contract it is necessary to take out insurance “to work, which partly refutes the theory that they would have more money available.
And he closes with the absurdity that he considers allowing people to be able to combine these grants with other postdoc contracts: “Taking into account the scarcity of postdoctoral contracts [en España] it is absurd that someone has two. We do not see the point of having people charging 4,000 euros a month when there are many people without anything, “he denounces.