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!

Advertisements

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.

https://i2.wp.com/www.thenational.scot/resources/images/7523854.jpg

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/

Statement Regarding the Working Limits on Postgraduate Tutors

The Working Conditions of Tutors are the Learning Conditions for Students

Undergraduate students at the University of Edinburgh may be unaware that a significant percentage of their tutors are employed on Guaranteed Hours contracts (GH contracts).

There are many issues with the approach adopted by many prestigious universities to the employment of post-graduate and other tutors on GH contracts.

The working conditions of staff are the learning conditions for students and we think that it is unacceptable for universities who market themselves to students on their reputation for high quality provision to employ large numbers of their staff on contracts that prevent them doing their jobs as effectively as possible.

The trade union representing academic and related staff, the University and College Union (UCU), are taking these issues up with the University of Edinburgh management.

However, we ask undergraduate students to be aware that we believe the current arrangements mean that there are too many insecure contracts which disrupt educational relationships, stifle the development of teaching staff and often put them under unbearable pressure to cut corners by employing them on poor hourly rates that fail to cover the work they really do.

If your tutor says that she or he has insufficient time to meet your needs, there is a good reason for it. We are clear that current arrangements mean that tutors are not always paid fully for:

  • All hours spent preparing for teaching (reading assigned texts, setting questions, identifying secondary readings, marking handouts, presentations, etc.)
  • All hours spent marking essays
  • Evaluating participation in tutorials
  • Administration
  • Professional development

Your tutors do their best to read your work thoroughly, provide you with detailed feedback and offer assistance outside of tutorials but please be aware that the current GH contract arrangements mean that this is not always possible.

We ask you to understand why your tutor may not be able to meet your wishes.

In 2018, the UCU will be reviewing the situation regarding GH contracts. We want a situation where tutors are paid properly for what they do and are treated fairly. Updates on developments will be posted but in the meantime, we hope for your support.

University and College Union

December 2017

Guaranteed Hours Contracts

This page used to host a template letter, written by GH tutors, but has been temporarily unpublished due to University management requests. If you are a GH tutor at the University of Edinburgh, and would like to know how other tutors explain their working conditions to students, please get in touch with the organisers of the UCU PG & PD Network and/or attend their next meeting at 15.00 – 16.00, Wednesday 24 October at the Union Offices.

Tutors and Demonstrators draft policy

The University of Edinburgh is currently reviewing its Code of Practice for Tutors and Demonstrators, for which UCU has been represented on

the university task group (for info see: http://www.ed.ac.uk/academic-services/projects/reviewing-the-code-of-practice-for-tutoring-and-de).

After several meetings there is now a draft policy out for consultation: http://www.ed.ac.uk/academic-services/projects/reviewing-the-code-of-practice-for-tutoring-and-de

UCU postgraduate and postdoctoral reps and contacts have already been contacted to send in their views on the code, but other members (especially those in tutoring and demonstrating roles) are also invited to comment on the draft policy.

The university have highlighted specific areas that they would like feedback on:

  1. whether the document includes all necessary information and guidance;
  2. whether any key information or guidance is missing from the document;
  3. if relevant, how this document will relate to any School, subject-level or course-level documents that you provide your Tutors and Demonstrators.

The university is especially interested to hear your views on these issues:

  1. whether the University should limit the number of hours all full-time postgraduate tutors and demonstrators should work, and if so, what
    the limit should be (see Section 2.8)
  2. whether Schools should provide all tutors/demonstrators with access to a mentor (see Section 6.2);3.      whether the University should specify the knowledge/skills/training/support required for postgraduate students who are acting as tutors and
    demonstrators at certain levels (e.g. PGT level (See section 5)).

Please send any comments you may have to lena.wanggren@ed.ac.uk before 10th March.

Guidance on Working to Contract

Brief guidance on Working to Contract issues.  This is taken from item 24 on the FAQ page:  https://www.ucu.org.uk/heactionfaqs

What should I tell my employer if they ask if I am participating in action relating to working to contract and to the maximum 37-hour week?

You should wait until you are asked by your manager or a person in authority whether you are participating in ‘action short of a strike’ and then answer as follows:

 Dear [Name],

As you will be aware, following a recent ballot, UCU is calling on its members to take continuous action short of strike from 27 May 2016. This is to take the form of working to contract. I am writing to inform you that I shall be working the hours stipulated in my contract and no more. Where my contract is silent on the hours I am expected to work, I will work no more than a total of 35 hours per week, or my pro rata equivalent to take account of my personal circumstances and the length of the normal working week in question. In addition, I will perform no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, or covering for colleagues, unless this is a contractual requirement, nor will I set and mark work beyond that which I am contractually obliged to set and/or mark, nor will I attend meetings where attendance is voluntary. I will not undertake duties that breach the University’s health and safety and I will work strictly in accordance with the university’s policies or procedures having contractual force.

As I will therefore complete my contractual duties on a weekly basis and in any one week I will not expect the University to make any deductions from my salary save in respect of any strike action which I might take. I will raise a formal grievance if I am deducted pay whilst I am working in accordance with my contract.