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UCU wins recognition deal at Royal College of Art

6 May 2022

UCU members at the Royal College of Art (RCA) today announced that they have voted to accept recognition from the employer as part of a resolution to a long-running dispute, which has seen 41 days of strike action take place since 2020.

The Royal College of Art (RCA) UCU branch overwhelmingly voted to adopt a deal negotiated with college management which includes:  

  • full employment rights for all 
  • no more zero-hour contracts  
  • new routes to permanent contracts 
  • caps on teaching workloads for staff.

RCA management have heavily relied on casualised contracts for a number of years, and failed to properly engage with UCU over the issue. In the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years, there were more than 1,000 'visiting' lecturers working at RCA on zero hours contracts with minimal employment rights and no guaranteed work.  

Workload issues have been just as severe, with an RCA survey in 2019 showing that 95% of staff felt stressed at work and 78% experiencing overwork. The caps agreed as part of the deal will help redress work overload. 

Only after successive rounds of industrial action did RCA begin to engage and shift its position. UCU said that this victory was particularly significant given RCA's recent status as one of the worst offenders in the sector on casualisation, and said the local branch's success demonstrates the importance of sustained organising at branch level.  

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'This is a fantastic victory for our members at RCA, who have forced huge concessions from an employer who have until now been one of the worst offenders in the higher education sector when it comes to reliance on casualised contracts. 

'These wins have wider significance for the battle against casualisation, showing that employers' continual degradation of working conditions can be reversed. The agreement is also testament to the effectiveness of determined industrial action where it is underpinned by sustained organising at branch level, securing high turnouts and overwhelming majorities. 

'We will not rest until UCU members at every higher education institution across the UK have secure working conditions and full employment rights.'  

UCU RCA branch secretary Nathan Francois said: 'This victory is a timely reminder that union members and branches have real and meaningful power to shape their working conditions together through industrial action, solidarity, and support from workers and students across higher and further education.  

'It will make a real difference to so many people working at the RCA and across the sector. Our aim now is to ensure that this agreement is upheld in order to make lasting, long term change at the RCA.'

Last updated: 9 May 2022