UCU regional official Julie Kelley has formally submitted our anti-casualisation claim on behalf of the union. The claim sets out clearly what we want the university to do to end job insecurity at the University of Leeds. We have requested formal talks with the university senior management.
The text of the claim is available in full below or to download as a PDF
Full text of our anti-casualisation claim
University and College Union: University of Leeds
– formal heads of claim
The issue of the use of insecure contracts in
the higher education sector now has a very high public profile. This is an
issue of national priority for the University and College Union, and for this
branch at the University of Leeds.
We believe that we have a common interest in
improving the contractual terms of employment of staff in higher education.
While a few individuals are likely to find them appropriate to their
circumstances, the truth is that for the majority insecure contracts have a
seriously detrimental effect on the wellbeing of university staff. In a UCU
survey of staff on insecure contracts 42% said that they had struggled to pay
the bills. More than a third (35%) had had problems keeping up with mortgage or
rent commitments and one in five had had difficulties putting food on the
table. This is one major reason why whenever they are surveyed, staff
invariably express the desire for more secure employment.
In addition, a growing body of research
indicates that any so-called ‘efficiency’ gains from hiring teachers on the
cheap are in fact illusory. Recent research into the use of flexible labour has
suggested that ‘easy hire and
fire’ is a false economy that saves money only at the cost of
organisational learning, knowledge accumulation and knowledge sharing, thus
damaging innovation and labour productivity growth’.
Finally, staff on insecure contracts also tell
us that their fixed-term and casual terms of employment place major obstacles
in the way of them delivering the quality support their students deserve. This
has been mitigated thus far by their extraordinary efforts to maintain a high
standard of education. This cannot be expected to last forever, unless meaningful
action is taken.
The University of Leeds employs 65% of its
research staff and 36% of its teaching only staff on fixed-term contracts, as
well as employing 1,343 academics as atypical workers. Many of the ‘atypical
academics’ are postgraduate students working as teaching assistants and
employed as temporary casual workers. These casual workers are effectively on zero hours contracts as their hours are
not predictable beyond a few weeks and they have limited or no sick pay,
holiday pay and other employment benefits. These
statistics should be a source of shame and concern for a large, elite
University in the UK.
Once damaged, reputations are very hard to
rebuild. Students entering the higher education system deserve to know that the
people that make their education possible are being employed on contracts, pay
rates and terms and conditions that enable them to do their jobs properly. A
good student experience is not guaranteed by the quality of a building but by
the quality of the educational experience. Secure staff employment is the best
underpinning for a high quality student experience.
Statement of intent
claim is for the university senior management to agree a joint statement which:
for a joint review of working practices;
the need for time-limited negotiations;
to negotiate a review of relevant polices and working practices;
UCU’s right to negotiate for all who provide teaching and research at the
University of Leeds.
the leadership across and within schools and colleges and commits to the
provision of sufficient resources (people and money) to achieve the agreed objectives.
3. An end to the use of ‘worker’ contracts:
It is unacceptable and unnecessary for
teaching and research staff to be employed as temps any longer. Other
universities have moved away from this form of employment. The University of
Leeds must now make this commitment.
Our claim is for the University to
agree steps to move hourly paid staff onto fractional employment contracts,
assimilated to the National pay Spine and matched to the national role profiles
at the appropriate academic level. These should be open-ended contracts
wherever possible in line with our claim under section 7. Fractionalisation
should not introduce detrimental pay rates in comparison to any previous hourly
4. Fractionalisation of hourly paid staff
The use of hourly paid teaching contracts produces systematic underpayment for teaching staff. Preparation time is not adequately recompensed, office hours are unevenly paid for at rates that do not reflect the contact and feedback time spent with students, while marking tariffs vary between schools. Some PhD bursaries still expect unpaid teaching as a condition of their grant, while postdoctoral research staff report being put under pressure to teach without separate payment. In addition, the practice of paying hourly paid teaching assistants using timesheets frequently results in a failure to pay staff at all, sometimes for months. For people who depend on teaching pay to maintain their postgraduate studies, this is catastrophic. There is no need for hourly paid staff, including postgraduate teaching assistants, to be employed in this way. Other universities have placed such staff on fractional contracts. UCU’s claim is for:
The University to agree to the
fractionalisation of hourly paid staff;
Fractional contracts to be calculated
by an agreed formula that takes account of all hours of work done, including
work which is currently unpaid;
An end to unpaid labour via bursaries or fellowships and payment
for teaching at the appropriate hourly rate for the grade.
5. Removing unequal treatment
university should agree steps, including:
- Ensuring that all staff who teach are paid
at the same rate for the same activities across all Schools;
- Ensuring equal access to incremental
progression for staff on different forms of contract
- Reviewing the grades paid across
schools to ensure compliance with other agreements;
- All teaching roles to be graded at a
minimum of grade 6.
- Ensuring equal access to adequate paid
time for professional development opportunities.
6. Reduction of the use of fixed-term contracts
The University of Leeds employs almost 36% of its teaching-only
staff and no less than 65% of its research only staff on fixed term contracts.
Members report to us the use of successive fixed-term contracts, presumably
being ‘objectively justified’ by the non-agreed criteria in the University’s
Fixed-Term contract policy. While funding streams are often fixed or at least
interrupted across the sector, there is no necessary reason why fixed-term
contracts should be the majority mode of employment at Leeds. Other
research-intensive universities like UCL, Bristol and Aberdeen have made
decisive moves to move their staff onto open-ended contracts. This can
significantly benefit staff for whom open ended contracts enable access to
services such as mortgage lending, and do not suffer breaks in their continuity
of service. Continuity of service can also impact upon the ability of staff to
access benefits such as maternity leave, and their eligibility for redundancy
Our claim is for:
- Review of the University’s fixed-term
contract policy to ensure that it is being properly implemented
- A commitment that the normal form of
employment for all academic staff groups will be employed on genuinely open-ended contracts
- The establishment
of central bridging funds to support the continued financial security of
research projects and enable the continued employment and retention of research
expertise in the university
- Agreement that where Teaching
Fellowships are objectively justified as being fixed-term, they are for a
minimum of one year’s duration, but the normal expectation will be that these
will be replaced by open ended contracts at the end of this period.
- Concerted action
will be taken by management to ensure new contracts are provided in good time,
rather than at the very last minute as often the case at present.
There is a worrying trend for research
intensive universities to attempt to offload more and more teaching onto staff
placed on ‘teaching-focussed contracts’ that are in fact ‘teaching-only
contracts’ to ‘free-up’ their identified research ‘stars’. The use of contracts
that simply engage people to teach without allocated time for the scholarly
activity that supports subject specialism demonstrates a failure to understand
the distinctive character of higher education teaching, while the Concordat’s
principle that being contracted to deliver one activity should not become a
barrier to career development equally applies to teaching staff. Far too often,
these teaching focused contracts are used on a short fixed-term basis of one
year or less, damaging academic careers and affecting the ‘student experience’.
Our claim is for agreement that these roles will contain at least 20% of time
ring-fenced for scholarly activity.
8. Agreement on provision of specific facilities time
Conducting effective negotiations on improving employment will
require a significant commitment of time from reps and in particular those on
insecure contracts. Therefore, our claim includes a call for agreement on a
specific allocation of paid time off or, in the case of hourly paid staff, paid
time on, to allow our representatives to meaningfully participate in the
processes around and within these negotiations.
9. Negotiating forum
UCU submits this claim as a matter for negotiation. This is a
matter pertaining to the pay, terms and conditions of academic and related
staff. As such, we want negotiations to be held between representatives of the
UCU and university management alone.
It is important that the negotiations are conducted in a timely
fashion and that the objective should be to reach agreement by the end of July
10. Terms of agreement to be incorporated into university policies
The terms of agreement reached following negotiation should be
incorporated into the university’s policies.
11. Implementation, monitoring and review
The provisions of the agreement reached should be disseminated in
a manner that provides for uniform application across the university. Managers
should be fully trained on the provisions of this agreement. The terms of the
agreement should be monitored on an ongoing basis.