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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Staff Survey – Our Initial Response

University staff will by now have seen the summary results of the survey. Like you, we received the results via the Principal’s email and links on Monday morning, so we haven’t had much time to digest the findings. We will be asking university management for more information, particularly a breakdown of results by gender, and a breakdown by academic/professional staff.

Management have already told us that they’re going to be wary about circulating free text comments because of confidentiality concerns, but we’ll ask for some analysis of them (e.g. words/phrases commonly used). If you think there is anything else we should ask for, please let us know.

First Impressions

When we looked at the results on Monday it soon became clear that in most categories we’re at or near the bottom of the Russell Group (and indeed most other) universities. This is particularly so in the category of leadership and change management, with (for example) just 36% of participants agreeing that they have confidence in the leadership of the university, and a dismal 24% agreeing that the university manages change effectively.

Leadership

This is, or should be, an embarrassment for senior leaders. The Principal’s covering email made no acknowledgement of this fact: we are glad he was ‘pleased to see some very positive results’ but we are puzzled at his interpretation. He mentions ‘pride’ where we managed to score at the Russell Group average, ‘respect’ where we were 13 percentage points below with just 66% of respondents agreeing that the University treats them with respect, and ‘relationships’ where we scored at the UUK average (only three Russell Group universities included this question).

Are those ‘very positive results’? We don’t think so. The only acknowledgement of the very poor results in most other questions was a bland admission that ‘as expected, there are also areas which we could improve on’.

Inconsistent Message

Why the weasel words when we know the Principal is capable of tough talking? Whilst we don’t endorse the National Student Survey as a valid measure of student ‘satisfaction’, we can’t help contrasting the Principal’s communications about the NSS results with these ones.

When the university’s NSS results turned out to be towards the bottom of the Russell Group, the Principal did not pull any punches in telling staff to get our act together. We were all responsible, he told us, and we needed to shape up and do better. Where, then, is the ‘clarion call’ to culture change amongst senior leaders in relation to this survey?

Change at the Top Needed

We’ll ask him. We’ll also be looking out for any indications that responsibility for what looks like systemic failure is going to be passed down the chain to heads of schools, subject areas and service units, rather than being shouldered by senior leadership where it belongs. Whilst we agree that everyone has their part to play, we’ve long believed that structural and cultural change is needed at the very top and the survey results appear to confirm that.

Moving Forward

It is clear from the results that the disconnect between staff and senior management is greater than ever. We believe that only by engaging with the entire staff/student community can the problems with staff engagement be addressed. As such UCU, in discussion with the other campus unions, will be asking senior management to include representatives from all staff; such as casualised staff, postgraduate students, early career academics, professional services staff, technical staff, disabled staff, the staff pride network etc., in a wider consultation and in any responses to the issues this survey has raised.

 

 

Lecture Recording Policy update

Background

Over the course of the last year the University has drafted a new policy on Lecture Recording and many of you may have participated in the consultation that took place about this in the spring. The policy working group involved representation from the Joint Unions Liaison Committee and this was largely a positive experience in our ‘partnership working’ with  University management.

Dispute

Unfortunately UCU Edinburgh has not been able to conclude signing-off this policy and the University has taken the unilateral decision to impose it. The employer initially proposed to impose the policy from September 2018; however, given UCU’s intervention this will now take effect from Jan 1st 2019.

The imposition of policy without agreement is a very serious matter and this leads us to the beginning of a local industrial dispute.UCU has lodged a formal notice of ‘Failure to Agree’ with the University management and there has been one meeting to consider our disagreement.

Consultation

Since UCU’s local and national policy on one or two final points is contrary to the position taken by the University we want to consult members to assess the strength of feeling about this matter.

We will shortly be conducting an electronic consultation with the help of national UCU and following their guidelines on local disputes.  We want to assess members’ views on this matter, to build pressure on the employer to negotiate further on this policy, and to assess how strongly members feel about moving into dispute and potentially undertaking a statutory ballot over lecture capture.

The Issues

  1. One of the main issues is that we believe lecturers should decide whether or not they wish to record a lecture, and the process to do so should be to “opt-in” to record, not to “opt-out”.
  2. The second issue is the length of time recordings are retained
  3. Finally there is the imposition of policy itself.

We are aware that there are ongoing discussions in some Schools which have not yet adopted lecture recording and there are very real concerns about the ease of opting-out, security of sensitive discussions and the workload burden that lecture recording imposes. There are also principled pedagogical and practical arguments against lecture recording which contradict the very positive narrative the University has employed. Staff who hold these opinions are now put in a very difficult position and UCU committee believes this should not be the case.

Before we launch the consultation and for those schools actively looking at this the following questions may be helpful to consider.

  1. Is the opt-out easy enough?

    The University claims this is the case but experience in Schools may be different. Unlike other universities Edinburgh makes little or no effort to follow the national JISC guidelines on written consent or assertion of rights.

  2. Does the policy protect individual rights enough?

We look forward to ongoing discussion with members as this matter progresses and we hope to facilitate that discussion both online and through open general meetings.

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

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/

Pensions: Our Response to Charlie Jeffery

USS_IconFollowing Professor Charlie Jeffery’s email to staff (13 Nov), UCU Edinburgh has through the Joint Unions Liaison Committee (JULC) requested answers to the following questions via the Combined Joint Consultative and Negotiating Committee (CJCNC).   

Our first set of questions arise from the email; these are followed by three supplementary questions. The italicised statements below are all taken from Professor Jeffery’s email, we would like answers to the ensuing questions.


“We, along with all other Universities that offer USS, were asked to respond to a number of questions on the USS Technical Assumptions, the method used to value the pension scheme.”

Can JULC have a copy of the University’s response to the USS Technical Assumptions, preferably ahead of our meeting (on the understanding that this would be kept confidential)?


“Our response was considered and agreed by a special Sub Committee of Court. “ 

JULC would like to know the following:

1) What was the membership of the sub-committee?

2) Has the full Court seen the response? Does it agree with it?

3) Has CMG seen the response? Does it agree with it?

4) Can we see the minutes of any meetings this sub-committee had?


“We said that we wanted the outcome to be something that is seen by staff to be fair and in their best interests.”  

Does University management believe the current UUK proposal is fair and in the best interests of staff?

If not, what steps have or will be taken to stress to UUK that their proposal does not meet this University’s criteria as communicated to staff?


“We confirmed that we would be willing to maintain the current level of employer contribution at 18%.

We also said that we were willing to consider alternative proposals for the amount of contribution if it would secure the long-term sustainability of the scheme.”

What consideration was given to increasing employer contributions in the line with the recommendations of the Trustees and why was this option rejected?

Do you acknowledge that the current proposal, while keeping the employers’ contribution at 18% results in an actual reduction in the amount going into fund future staff pensions from the employers as a higher amount is set aside for past deficit reduction, administration and costs? Is the implication that you would be prepared to pay more than 18%?


“We emphasised the importance of future pension arrangements being sustainable; attractive; valued; flexible; predictable and stable. 

We believe the current UUK proposal is none of these and especially it is not predictable, since Individual Defined Contribution schemes offer no guarantees. Again, what message will you send to UUK regarding their failure to meet your criteria?


“We recognised that there will be expectations from staff to maintain a defined benefit structure for USS.” 

Is the University committed in any way to supporting the expectations of staff?


” However, we expressed concern that changes to the threshold for defined benefit or a reduction in the accrual rate would be unlikely to solve the structural problem associated with USS, given the continuing issues around sustainability.” 

Do you recognise that any ‘structural problem’ with USS results purely from a ‘recklessly prudent’ approach to the valuation methodology? The fund takes in more than it pays out and on a best estimate valuation has an £8 billion surplus.


“We expressed particular concern about the impact of an unsustainable scheme on our staff, as well as on our institution. ”

 Why do you think the scheme is unsustainable, given that it brings in more than it pays out, is a last man standing scheme, backed by the employers’ covenant and ultimately the PPF?

Are you backing out of your covenant commitments?  If senior managements elsewhere are not committed to the covenant, what will you do to convince them to keep their promises?


“We recognised that maintaining the current structure would not address the recent trend of increasing deficits in the scheme (caused by liabilities growing faster than assets).” 

Again, do you recognise that the idea of liabilities growing faster than assets is

only true of the notional valuation and not of the actual performance of the Scheme as it is currently invested? If you do, then how can you communicate this to staff?


“This trend is driven by factors substantially out with our control or that of the Trustees. This could mean that the scheme might require regular review and possible further amendment.  We were concerned that constant revisions to the scheme benefits and structure might lead to mistrust and a lack of confidence in the scheme from the membership!”

 Do you realise that any lack of confidence in the scheme seems to rest solely with the pensions regulator, based on their lack of trust in the employers fulfilling their covenant?

Early discussion seemed to indicate that a majority of employers favoured some form of Defined Benefit.

What evidence do you have that the UUK negotiators are reflecting the majority position of employers, given e.g. the statement by the VC of Warwick that he is mystified by the proposals?


“We therefore stated that we thought it important to agree changes that would provide stability for the longer term. We proposed that detailed work should be done to develop options, including for a good quality, robust defined contribution scheme.

This work should clearly draw out the implications for employees of any move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution scheme, including the greater flexibility to access pension benefits in defined contribution schemes, resulting from recent changes in the law.

We were very clear in our response that we want to incentivise savings for retirement and do NOT want any changes to lead to any reduction in employers’ payment towards pension provision.  “

Again, do you acknowledge that keeping the employers’ contribution at 18% does result in a reduction of the amount being invested in future pension provision?


“We want the outcome to be a pension package that offers a high degree of certainty and is valued and supported by staff.” 

Given that the current proposal by UUK offers near zero certainty of anything, will you put to them that they need to come up with something better?


“We also recognised that this is an extremely complex area and suggested that robust yet simple models should be developed as the discussions progress so that staff can see clearly the implications of the final proposals. “

 Can we assume from this that you have so far seen no calculations as to what staff expectations might be? Can you please insist on this immediately?


Supplementary Questions

  1. Would you support an alternative to Individual Defined Contribution (IDC)such as Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) or a Wage in Retirement scheme (WinRS)?
  2. If the UUK proposals for IDC go ahead would you support opening to staff better alternatives to USS such as TPS?
  3. After a decade of reductions in benefits for increases in contributions, staff no longer trust USS. Similarly, given their reluctant acquiescence to such changes, employers no longer trust USS. If the UUK proposals go ahead would you agree to providing the same increases in salary in lieu of employer and employee pensions contributions, for staff wishing to quit USS, which you give to staff who have reached the Lifetime Allowance for pensions?