First class universities subsidised with second class pay and conditions, says UCU

1 February 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU has today launched a help kit for academic and related staff on fixed-term or hourly-paid contracts.

The kit is part of the union's campaign to secure better terms and conditions for the 150,000 plus staff who are forced onto temporary contracts.

Employment legislation which came into force last summer means that some non-permanent employees now have the right to full contracts. However, the union said today that the repeated use of fixed-term contracts for academic staff remains endemic in universities with too many institutions still trying to provide world-class teaching and research on the cheap.

In the UK 43 per cent of academic staff (almost 70,000 people) are on fixed-term contracts. In addition almost one in four non-academic university professionals (16,320 members of staff) are on fixed-term contracts.

A recent union survey revealed that a quarter (24%) of staff on fixed-term contracts were not invited to attend staff/departmental meetings and only two in five (41%) had regular development reviews.

On top of the 86,000 staff on fixed-term contracts it is estimated a similar amount are on hourly-paid 'atypical' contracts - essentially casualised employment, including one-off tasks, which equate to less than five per cent of a full-time job.

Three-quarters (74%) of hourly-paid staff want to be given permanent contracts, almost all (86%) work more hours than they are paid and two in five (40%) have no computer provided for them at work.

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We cannot build a world-class university sector on the exploitation of staff, yet casual contracts are still a fact of life for more than 150,000 academic and related staff in the UK. Casualisation in our universities may be invisible to the public and to students but it is the unacceptable underbelly of higher education in this country.

'UCU's new guidance pack will provide help to those in this vulnerable position, but universities must stop shirking their responsibilities to staff and funding bodies must do more to stop the subsidisation of first class teaching and research with second class pay and conditions.'

The help kit includes information on how fixed-term staff can approach their university to move to a full contract, including model letters and a 'know your rights' checklist.