Joint Statement

The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh UCU restate their commitment to working in partnership to enhance the employment experience of those employed on Guaranteed Hours and Fixed-Term contracts.

The University and UCU have agreed a programme of work to address issues of particular concern to teaching staff employed on guaranteed minimum hour contracts. The University and UCU have also committed to review the number and duration of fixed-term teaching fellowship contracts, and to take this forward to effectively consider the formal claim submitted by UCU in February 2018.

Whilst the University and UCU agree that progress has been made since the move away from ‘hours to be notified’ and introduction of ‘guaranteed hours’ (GH) contracts and welcome the development of the policy for the recruitment, development and support of tutors and demonstrators, it is also recognised that more needs to be done to ensure that GH staff are fairly paid for all of the work they are asked to do and to reduce the insecure nature of these contracts.

To address this, work has already commenced, piloted by the Schools of Languages, Literature and Culture and History, Classics and Archaeology, to gain a better understanding of the make-up of our GH population and whether the work they do could be consolidated into more substantive part-time or full-time posts.

We have also agreed to ask all Schools/Deaneries to confirm that they have embedded key policy components in their School level handbook for tutors and demonstrators.

We aim to complete this analysis across all Schools/Deaneries by August 2018.

The University and UCU recognise that it is in all our interests to put sufficient energy and commitment into resolving this in a timely manner.

A programme of fortnightly negotiating meetings has been scheduled to discuss this information, and other data relating to fixed-term contracts, to generate proposals for consideration by October 2018 by UCU members and the University Executive.

Signed
Professor Jane Norman, Vice-Principal, People and Culture
James Saville, Director of HR
On behalf of the University of Edinburgh

Grant Buttars, Honorary President
On behalf of UCU Edinburgh

Also on the University website

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Precarious work at Edinburgh: scrap the 9- and 10-month Teaching Fellowships

As several studies by UCU and by researchers have demonstrated, precarious work is extremely stressful for the employees in question. The question remains why so many universities continue this detrimental practice of employing such large numbers of staff – in many institutions, like Edinburgh, the precariously employed outnumber the securely employed staff – when it is harmful for both staff and students.

UCU Edinburgh recently (February 2018) submitted a local claim on anticasualisation, which followed an earlier claim (March 2017) and over five years of anticasualisation campaigning. Three months have elapsed since we presented the claim, and the University is only now beginning to respond to our demands. One specific demand in this claim is that no teaching fellowships should be shorter than 12 months.

We have recently been contacted by UCU members both at Edinburgh University and elsewhere, to highlight that University of Edinburgh is currently advertising a two year long Teaching Fellowship in German, in the school of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures, but with pay only during 10 months of the year, which makes the post in essence a double ten-month contract.

This advert follows two recent adverts for 9-month long contracts in French in the same school, and indeed it is common practice in the school to employ even open-ended teaching staff on 10-month contracts. As laid out in our February claim, UCU Edinburgh disagrees with this practice.

The above job post – which essentially leaves the employee without paid work two months of the year and without adequate paid time for scholarship – shows just how urgent it is that the University address our claim satisfactorily. Just two weeks ago UCU Edinburgh branch passed a motion at our AGM to step up our action on anticasualisation, which we will now do. Given the recent welcome decision at Durham University to scrap 9-month teaching fellowships and ensure that all contracts are at least 12 months in duration, surely the University of Edinburgh can act in a similar manner? Staff’s working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and this move by Durham is not only crucial to ensure fairer working conditions of staff but also better teaching:

‘The University wants to ensure that our Teaching Fellows have an opportunity to prepare their teaching and that they be given a full calendar year to work in the University. Henceforth, therefore, the University will only employ Teaching Fellows for a minimum period of 12 months.’

Edinburgh, why not take a step in the same direction, for the sake of staff well-being and student education? And, of course, for the sake of the reputation of the University. One staff member at another UK university, who had considered applying for the above mentioned post in German, stated to the branch in an email:

‘I was considering applying for the job at Edinburgh, but have decided against it because of this insulting and poor employment practice, unless there is pressure on the department to change it’.

We now have a meeting with management planned for 6th June, in which we will seek to schedule time-limited negotiations in relation to the February claim. If we do not, the branch will be forced to step up our campaigning and action, as mandated by our members at the recent AGM . The large numbers of casualised UCU members at Edinburgh University simply cannot wait any longer for fair working conditions.

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Motion passed at UCU Edinburgh AGM 16 May:

ENABLING MOTION FOR UCU EDINBURGH AGM: ANTI-CASUALISATION

Proposer: Lena Wånggren

Seconder: Suzanne Trill

This branch notes in December 2017 a branch meeting agreed to submit a claim on tacking casualised staff at the University of Edinburgh. The branch congratulates the UCU post-graduate and researchers’ network and the branch officers for pursuing this policy and submitting a claim in week one of the new Principal’s arrival.

This branch notes:

* It is 3 months since the claim was submitted and the university management have failed to engage in serious negotiations;

* casualised staff played a major role in the USS action;

* casualisation is an issue affecting permanent staff, as it is part of the approach to an increasingly fissured academic workforce;

* casualisation is part of a management approach that divides the academic workforce and can drag down overall pay and conditions;

This branch demands that the University management to commit to a timetable of negotiations that would deliver a new collective agreement by no later than December 2018.

This branch resolves:

1) to pursue the University management for a timetable for direct, UCU/Management, negotiations;

2) if management fail to agree a realistic negotiating6) timetable by the JNC on 12 June, to lobby Court on 18 June;

3) to continue work with the PG network on developing a campaign and organising timetable for engage members in pushing for an agreement by the end of the calendar year (to include using various publicity activities, senate, court, open days, the NSS);

4) to work with the Edinburgh Students’ union on a pack explaining to new students the plight of casualised staff at the University of Edinburgh;

5) to seek advice on developing a legal trade dispute on the issue and balloting for industrial action;

6) the branch committee should organise further general meetings to fit with the negotiating timetable to enable report back from the negotiations and, if necessary, to call for an industrial action ballot.

Casualisation and Unpaid Assessment in Edinburgh’s English Literature Department

The UCU Edinburgh branch has submitted two anti-casualisation claims to the Principal’s Office in the past year, the first one in March 2017. The most recent one, which reached Prof Mathieson during his first week in post at the beginning of February continues without an official response from the principal.

The case below, which is just one of many cases of casualised staff not being paid fairly for their work, was sent to us by a number of UCU members in the English Literature department, and we publish it here on behalf of them. This most recent action outlined below on the part of English Department tutors forms part of a longer history of UCU Edinburgh’s anti-casualisation work that has had some positive results including pay for marking, moves to fractional contracts for a number of members, and a heightened awareness of the negative impact of casualisation.

Unpaid Assessment in Edinburgh’s English Department

Guaranteed Hours (GH) contract tutors in the University of Edinburgh’s English Department have been told that they will not be paid for tutorial assessment – marking and commenting on students’ work in tutorials – if they cannot fit this into the time they are given to prepare for a class (usually one hour of preparation for a one-hour tutorial). During the recent pensions dispute, GH contract tutors in the English Department taking action short of a strike found that they could not complete participation assessments for their tutorial groups without separate payment for this specific piece of assessment. While essay marking is paid at a rate of 4500 words per hour (26.7 minutes for each 2,000-word pre-honours essay, or 20 minutes for a 1,500-word one), tutorial assessment falls between any categories for payment. GH tutors in the deparment are permitted to claim two hours per semester for administrative work, into which they must fit all email interactions, potential office hours with students, discussing and adjusting marks after moderation, uploading material to the Virtual Learning Environment, assigning readings and writing tutorial schedules (let alone familiarising themselves with texts and relevant criticism). Needless to say, most of that administrative time is spent before tutors even see their students. Likewise the one hour of paid preparation for each one-hour tutorial is insufficient to prepare a class let alone assess participation at the end of the semester. Tutorial participation amounts to unpaid assessment.

To resolve this issue, 17 UCU member who are GH tutors in the English Department signed a letter to the Head of Department asking to be remunerated for one hour of pay per tutorial (or two hours pay if the number of students exceed 10, as in some honours courses) to complete this core assessment, now and in the future. The new tutors and demonstrators policy (see point 3.1: https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/tutorsdemonstrators_policy.pdf) states explicitly that any assessment that is compulsory needs to be paid for. Indeed, this is paid for in the School of Social and Political Science, for example, at a rate of two hours per tutorial. However, their class sizes are about twice as large as those in English Literature, hence the claim for one hour’s pay per tutorial.

The response was that ‘the departmental view that Tutors are appropriately paid for tutorial participation remains unchanged’: that ‘tutorial participation is included in the double rate multiplier’, that the Heads of School and Heads of College consider that ‘tutors were paid appropriately within the existing multipliers’, and that ‘it should take no longer than 15-20 minutes to complete the tutorial participation feedback form for a class of approximately 10 students per semester’. This amounts to two minutes per student. The 17 English Literature tutors refused to take time out of the already insufficient one hour paid to prepare for a one-hour tutorial, due to their care for their students and determination to give students a worthwhile education. They have adhered to the Head of Department’s recommended time of assessing tutorial participation as two minutes per student, however, they have submitted claims for payment for this time as marking.

If you are a GH tutor or demonstrator and would like to help and/or stay informed with the branch’s anti-casualisation campaign, please email ucu@ed.ac.uk

Follow the Postgrad and postdoc UCU Network on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/UCUEdinburghpostgrad/ or find them here (with contact details for the network organisers): https://ucuedinburgh.wordpress.com/about/postgrad-postdoc-network/