Anti-Casualisation: A Step Forward but More to Do

Employment of Guaranteed Hours Teaching Staff and Fixed-Term Academic Staff: Statement on Agreement reached with University management

UCU members will recall that the branch submitted a claim in to the new Principal on tackling casualisation at the University of Edinburgh.

The claim was submitted in February 2018. Since then, UCU negotiators have been in talks with senior university management with regular updates on progress and obstacles encountered reported to the branch. Crucially, the UCU postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network have been at the centre of the decision-making process.

Campaign activities were also key in raising the profile of the appalling plight faced by many of the casualised staff, with a particularly well-attended lobby of the University Court. The student union provided moral and physical support.

A collective agreement has now been reached. This was approved by the postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network and formally agreed by the branch committee.

The agreement includes positive statements/progress on:

  • Guaranteed Hours staff exception rather than norm;
  • Written notification of hours in advance of starting work (expectation);
  • An agreement that Colleges and Schools should ensure that casualised staff are paid for all work they are required to do, including when such work relates to induction, required training and agreed professional development;
  • Fractional contract if someone is employed on more than an 0.2 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) basis over 2 years;
  • The right to incremental pay progression;
  • Annual reviews – including an agreed number of hours for professional development;
  • The employer and UCU agree the need to develop clear guidance regarding the management of staff on fixed-term contracts and will commit to doing so by January 2020.

There are also some areas contained in our claim where we were unable to win an immediate improvement (yet). The key areas are:

  1. Although we have a principled agreement that casualised staff should be paid for all the work they do, we were unable to get the university management to agree minimum tariffs and pay rates for various tasks. We did manage to agree new enhanced guidance to schools and agreed review (in schools).
  1. The management were unwilling to agree the end of 9/10 month contracts immediately, saying that it would take until 2020/21 to phase them out. We have continued to press this point. Members both in Edinburgh and beyond will have noted the recent public outcry over these exploitative contracts, but despite this outcry and despite the positive steps by universities such as Durham in moving all such staff to mininum 12 month contracts (with 12 months’ pay), University of Edinburgh refuses to budge on this point.

Importantly, the agreement notes that the staff covered (many of whom are early-career staff) may feel vulnerable raising issues about the amount of work they are being expected to do within their schools and that union representatives can raise these matters for individuals and that ‘collectively agreed grievance procedures may be invoked’.

Finally, it is clear that the approach taken by the branch – involving the relevant members in the content of a collective claim then submitting it formally to the university management for bi-lateral negotiations – helped bring focus to the collective bargaining process. We were clear on where we were making progress, where we were not, and by university standards made progress in a relatively speedy fashion. Implementation of the agreement will be jointly monitored by the UCU and the university management.

However, the negotiators and branch committee are clear that this is a step forward but that we feel the operation of the agreement over the next year will show that there is a still a need to address some fundamental issues with the amount of time casualised staff are paid for. One recent example of exploitation of precariously employed staff was the decision last year to move away from the school workload model for precariously employed staff in Moray House, without consulting the union, which meant a real terms pay cut for hourly paid staff in the school. UCU has raised this consistently with the employer, and our new collective agreement commits to consultation on workload models across the University.

The work of this past year is just one part of our longstanding campaign to defend members’ job security and working conditions. We have ideas for taking the campaign forward and will be discussing these with the postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network.

Get involved!

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