Greater security for hourly paid lecturers at University of the Arts

21 January 2016 | last updated: 22 January 2016

Job security is a major issue for members at the University of the Arts in London, partly because the institution makes heavy use of hourly paid lecturers on fixed-term contracts, employing them either as associate lecturers (ALs) or visiting practitioners (VPs). There are some good reasons for this as many visiting practitioners do operate arts based practices alongside their part-time lecturing roles.

However, the fact remains that for many, many more, it's vital to know that they have the prospect of future employment. For the last year, UCU has been negotiating with the university to make some progress on exactly this issue. Now the two sides have been able to reach an agreement that should bring greater expectation of continued and more stable employment for many hourly paid lecturers at the university.

Under the new agreement, all associate lecturers and visiting practitioners employed on fixed-term contracts (FTCs) will be eligible for guaranteed re-employment in any subsequent year, provided:

  1. they have two years' continuous service (a break between FTCs of one term will NOT constitute a break)
  2. they have worked not less than 90 core hours in either of the two previous years
  3. there is no documented change or planned course closure that would affect them. (Such changes would themselves be subject to consultation between the university and UCU).

Hourly-paid lecturers re-employed under this policy will be entitled to at least 80% of their core hours the following year, which is an improvement on the ratio agreed with UCU during framework agreement negotiations. In line with statutory provisions, after four years continuous service, all ALs or VPs will be entitled to a permanent hourly-paid contract (barring objective justification), with hours calculated equivalent to their average core hours in the last 12 months. Importantly, a gap of one term between fixed-term contracts will not be considered a break in service.

Those lecturers who are offered re-employment but with a reduction in their core hours of more than 20% at the end of a contract will have the choice of two options:

  1. taking a full redundancy payment for the entire contract (assuming they have the requisite 2 years service) followed by re-engagement on a new contract (with the reduction in hours) for the following year, maintaining continuity of service with regard to all employment rights except redundancy pay, which restarts afresh
  2. taking a redundancy payment for the lost hours, but again maintaining continuity of service.

In addition, the draft agreement puts in place a requirement on the university management to undertake a measure of workforce planning and consultation with the union. The collective agreement remains far from perfect, but it marks another step forward for hourly-paid lecturers at UAL and more evidence that the national pressure around casualisation is delivering negotiated improvements that can make a real difference.

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