The topic of adjuncts is in the air at the moment (or so it seems). There is an Inside Higher Ed post on the topic, which outlines a report from the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The Guardian also has a nice piece on the plight of adjuncts:
[T]he adjunct problem is not about PhDs struggling to find jobs or people being forced to give up their dreams. The adjunct problem is about the continued exploitation of a large, growing and diverse group of highly educated and dedicated college teachers who have been asked to settle for less pay (sometimes as little as $21,000 a year for full-time work) because the institutions they work for have callously calculated that they can get away with it. The adjunct problem is institutional, not personal, and its affects reach deep into our culture and society.
Whilst talk of ‘adjuncts’ tends to be talk of the academic labour market in the US, the UK has its own similar problem with temporary, part-time staff. Such people are often paid by the hour, and contracted for less than a full year. There are people who have been working in the same department for years, but due to the nature of their contracts, do not enjoy the rights conferred by continuous employment (to give just two examples, one is only protected against unfair dismissal after two years of continuous employment; to qualify for maternity pay, one must have been working for one’s employer continuously for at least 26 weeks, up to the 15th week before the child is due to be born). These are not the only worries with temporary academic jobs. The British Philosophical Association produced some documents outlining the problems a few years ago, which are available to download from here (scroll down to ‘Policy on Casual and Temporary Staff’).