Trans and Non-Binary Equality at the University of Edinburgh

ucuequalitybannerAt the branch AGM on 20 June 2019, the following motion was passed, building on UCU policy on trans inclusion at Scotland and UK level and committing the branch to specific practical actions.

UCU Edinburgh notes:

  • Discriminatory comments and behaviour against trans people are rife in the UK due to misconceptions around gender identity and the impact of improved trans rights.
  • According to Stonewall Scotland, 1 in 8 trans employees have been physically attacked at work, and 51 percent of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination; and according to Trans.edu, 86 percent of trans students and staff in Scottish HE face barriers including discrimination, harassment and violence (see e.g. www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/trans_stats.pdf and www.trans.ac.uk).
  • UCU Congress 2018 motion 31 committed UCU to support trans rights and trans equality in the workplace and oppose any moves to delay or abandon the consultation over changes to the GRA.
  • UCU Edinburgh motion passed at Scotland Congress 2019 stated: ‘It is the right of all workers, no matter their gender identity, to be safe and respected at work’.
  • Based on national (UK) estimates, there will be between 155 and 362 staff at the University of Edinburgh who are transgender.
  • UCU unequivocally supports academic freedom of speech, and we have fought for the rights of our members who are targeted by their employer or the government for their research or trade union activities.
  • UCU’s existing policy and commitment to academic freedom (https://www.ucu.org.uk/academicfreedom).

UCU Edinburgh believes:

  • All of our members have the right to exist and be recognised as the gender they themselves identify as.
  • All our members have the right to hold personal opinions.
  • Our members do not have a right to be free from criticism for these opinions, nor to be guaranteed a platform by the union to express them.
  • We should not support members in weaponising their speech to question the existence of trans and non-binary colleagues.

UCU Edinburgh resolves to:

  • Work with the student union LGBT+ liberation officers and the Staff Pride Network on creating a trans inclusive university.
  • Create a LGBT+ sub-committee within the branch.
  • Employ good practice, such as that created by STUC and UCU, to provide guidance for members on gender identity and trans inclusion in the workplace.
  • Host a workshop on gender identity and trans rights (e.g. by Scottish Trans Alliance or Trans.Edu) for interested UCU members, to counteract lack of information around trans and non-binary equality.
  • Call on the University of Edinburgh (UoE) to ensure that all events held in the name of UoE and on UoE premises are in line with the Dignity and Respect Policy and that the UoE neither host nor facilitate meetings which contain content which is transphobic, biphobic, homophobic or otherwise detrimental to the safety and wellbeing of LGBT+ staff.

 

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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

Change!

change

As part of the Scottish Union Learning young workers’ project, you are invited to “Change!”, an evening of literature hosted by young and migrant workers.

Taking place from 6.30pm on Thursday 16th March at the STUC building on Woodlands Road in Glasgow, we hope that you will help us celebrate the launch of our new book, which has been written about and by people on zero hours contracts. With the title being revealed on the night, we’ll hear excerpts read by young writers and activists who will share their lives on zero hour contracts with us.

Pinar Aksu
Pinar Aksu

We will also hear from Pinar Aksu, Community Development worker with Migrant Voice, and participants from the “A Story in a Poem project” who will read some of the poems they have written about their journey to Scotland.

Refreshments will be provided so get there early to avoid missing out!

From precarious work to precarious lives, the theme of the evening is ‘Change’ and what this means for us in 2017. As a labour movement, we want to ensure that we are inclusive and seek new opportunities of integration for all.

More information

Response to The Student

This is written as clarification to an article in The Student, 29 Nov 2016

The below is the comment sent by UCU Edinburgh officers to The Student newspaper, a comment from which quotes were included in their recent article on tutors’ working conditions. UCU Edinburgh committee thought it might be useful to publish the full comment below, including statistics and references.

A note of clarification: The Student article mentions two surveys, one carried out by UCU UK (not UCU Edinburgh) in 2015, and one currently in circulation at the University, the latter carried out by a group of tutors based in the School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures. The latter survey is carried out both to gauge University of Edinburgh tutors’ view of the cap on working hours for PhD students, and to follow up from the petition letter penned by tutors in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences earlier this year, as the tutors in question reportedly have not seen enough positive change from the University.


UCU, or the University and College Union in full, is the largest trade union representing university staff and postgraduate students in the UK. We have over 110,000 members across the country, with over 1,500 members here at Edinburgh. We represent casualised (that is to say, people employed on precarious contracts, with limited or no job security) researchers and teaching staff as well as permanent lecturers, and also ‘academic-related’ staff such as librarians and administrators. As a union we believe that higher education should be a public good, and have campaigned for decades against the marketisation of our profession, including campaigning against tuition fees for students and for better working conditions for our members.

The University of Edinburgh is one of the country’s worst offenders when it comes to employing its staff on precarious contracts. UCU has campaigned against the extended and ever-increasing use of hourly contracts for a long time, but at the University of Edinburgh this work was picked up also by major newspapers. Following on work in previous years, including a 2012-2013 survey on the conditions of casualised staff members (https://ucuedinburgh.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/zero-hours-survey/ ), in 2013 a Freedom of Information request showed that 23 percent of all staff, and 47 percent of staff in Humanities and Social Sciences, were employed on zero hours contracts (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/ucu-homes-in-on-widespread-use-of-zero-hours-deals/2007035.article ), that is to say hourly contracts with no guaranteed minimum hours of work (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/ucu-homes-in-on-widespread-use-of-zero-hours-deals/2007035.article ). Despite the University’s promise in 2013 to improve job security for its workers (http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/university-of-edinburgh-agrees-to-stop-using-zero-hours-contracts-8802279.html ), and despite tutors and demonstrators having issued two petitions (in 2012 (http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/professor-sir-timothy-o-shea-university-of-edinburgh-principal-ensure-fair-treatment-of-tutors-demonstrators-and-hourly-paid-staff ) and in 2016 (http://blake2.ppls.ed.ac.uk/~s1264545/petition_tutors) ), not much progress has been made. While many staff members previously employed on zero hours contracts have now been moved to ‘guaranteed hours’ contracts (a type of hourly contract stipulating a specific guaranteed number of hours of work for a year), the use of such contracts has not decreased; instead they have been accompanied by an increased use of one-off payments (so-called ‘form 100’) which is an even more precarious way of employing staff.

While employers maintain that insecure contracts are needed to maintain ‘flexibility’, or that hourly paid teaching provides a ‘valuable opportunity’ for PhD students, in reality insecure employment causes anxiety and stress among staff as well as far from ideal learning conditions for students. The move to ‘guaranteed hours’ at Edinburgh should in theory give hourly paid staff an improved job security, but in practice they are very similar to the older zero hours contracts. Some hourly paid staff the union has talked to report not receiving their contracts until the end of term, which means they have no guaranteed hours of work at all and could be fired (or could quit) the next day. Others report being given only a small number of guaranteed hours but then being asked to work above this minimum, which means those extra hours are in-effect on a zero hours contract. Many tutors and lecturers are also employed on very short fixed-term posts, only covering term time, meaning that they have work for twelve weeks at a time (twenty-two weeks of the year), and without a guarantee for continued work. Many of us on casualised contracts do not know how to pay our rents, or where we will be living in a few months in case we have to move to another city or country for work, or – for those daring enough to start a family while in such a precarious working situation – how to feed our children. Many of us work up to five jobs at different workplaces in order to make ends meet. A survey of members in insecure contracts in 2015, carried out by UCU (https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/7279/Making-ends-meet—the-human-cost-of-casualisation-in-post-secondary-education-May-15/pdf/ucu_makingendsmeet_may15.pdf ), revealed significant numbers of them struggling to get by:

  • 40% said that they earned under £1000 per month.
  • One in seven (14%) earned less than £500 per month, which places them below the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance Contributions.
  • 17% said that they struggled to pay for food.
  • One third (34%) said that they struggle to pay rent or mortgage repayments
  • 36% said that they struggled to pay household bills like fuel, electricity, water and repairs

One respondent states: ‘I especially dread the summer and Easter periods as I have no idea how I will pay the rent.’

Like permanent members of staff, who often struggle to cope with unrealistic workloads and other increasing pressures, casualised staff suffer from deteriorating health caused by prolonged insecurity and overwork. A 2015 article (http://www.jfsonline.org/issue7-8/articles/lopesdewan/ ) highlights the emotional impact of job insecurity and exploitation on tutors and lecturers on casualised contracts. Interviewees mention anxiety and negative thoughts of the future, some of them mentioning ‘being close to “breaking point”’. One respondent states that ‘“I’ve reached the stage where I’m thinking I don’t even know if I can do this anymore, I really don’t”’. As the comments from tutors in The Student article shows, hourly paid teaching staff at the University of Edinburgh are no strangers to unpaid work and anxiety caused by their working conditions.

As data released this month shows (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/16/universities-accused-of-importing-sports-direct-model-for-lecturers-pay ), the University of Edinburgh is still – in 2016 – one of the universities in the UK with the largest percentage of staff on casualised contracts. This is one league table in which we should be ashamed to be in the top three. In terms of employing numbers of staff on ‘atypical’ contracts, that is to say hourly rather than fixed-term contracts, the University of Edinburgh is still – as in 2013 – the worst offender, with the largest number of ‘atypical’ workers: 3,760 staff members (https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/8384/Precarious-work-in-higher-education-November-2016-update/pdf/ucu_precariouscontracts_hereport_nov16.pdf ). Importantly, most tutors and lecturers on hourly contracts do not get paid for research, which goes directly against the University’s aim to provide research-led teaching. Many also do not get paid, or are insufficiently paid, for meeting with students, or to prepare their classes properly.

We in UCU know that bad working conditions for teachers means bad learning conditions for students. As we have seen casualised staff members’ conditions deteriorate, with many of them living hand to mouth with no job security, we have also seen – despite our best efforts as teachers – education becoming less of a priority for UK universities. While the university cares about getting good NSS results, when teachers and researchers raise issues regarding workloads and insecure working conditions – both of which ultimately impact students – we are not listened to.

Lena Wånggren, UCU Edinburgh Vice President

Clara Martinez Nistal, UCU Edinburgh Officer for Fixed-term and Hourly-paid Staff

St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March and Rally 2016

The STUC is organising the annual St Andrew’s Day anti-racism march and rally on Saturday 26 November. The march will assemble at 10.30am at Glasgow Green and from 11.00am will progress through the streets of Glasgow to the Glasgow Film Theatre on Rose Street, where there will be a rally with speakers from 12 noon. The theme of this year’s march is ‘No Racism: Protecting Rights, Defending Communities.’

sta2016