Students and staff building local alliances against precarious work as UCU pushes for wider change

20 January 2017 | last updated: 12 July 2018

As a consequence of UCU's work, momentum has been building up on the issue of casualisation for the last few years, culminating in November with the Guardian front page article and features revealing the plight of precarious workers in our universities. 

With parliamentary and government inquiries into precarious work in the modern economy, this issue isn't going away and UCU will continue to pile the pressure on our universities from above. But it's also vital to build pressure from below and then turn this into collective agreements to deliver real change. One way we've been doing this is by encouraging branches to build active unity with Students Unions on the issue of precarious work. Now UCU and the Students' Union at the University of Bath have agreed a joint statement committing to a united campaign to improve working conditions for staff and learning conditions for students.

Consequently, the issue of casualisation in higher education has a very high profile at the moment and the New JNCHES national bargaining machinery is delivering very little to tackle the issue. The time is right for the union to be pushing local claims and using the national support available to campaign and negotiate for the transfer of more staff to more secure contracts. We would encourage other branches to do the same. You can read the joint statement in full at the bottom of this post. At the same time, the union is asking branches to table new claims locally to tackle the gender pay gap and casualisation. Universities are vulnerable on their treatment of precarious staff. Now is the time for branches to push for new agreements and for members to help build vibrant local campaigns in concert with students.

Branches are encouraged to use and adapt the joint statement for their own institutions. Watch out for more on the campaign against precarious work soon.

Joint statement by University of Bath University and College Union and University of Bath Students Union  

We call on the University of Bath to make clear its commitment to providing high quality education for students by taking decisive action to improve job security for academic staff.   

We believe that the working conditions of staff are the learning conditions for students and we think that it is unacceptable for universities who market themselves to students on their reputation for high quality provision to employ large numbers of their staff on contracts that prevent them doing their jobs as effectively as possible.  

Casual and insecure contracts disrupt educational relationships, stifle the development of teaching staff and often put them under unbearable pressure to cut corners by employing them on poor hourly rates that fail to cover the work they really do. Yet in spite of this across the sector, almost half of all academics are employed on insecure or temporary contracts.   

We call on the university to:  

  • demonstrate its commitment to transparency by publishing data showing the proportions of undergraduate classes that are being taught by staff on insecure contracts and 
  • show its commitment to real change by conducting a joint review of all non-permanent academic and related contracts with UCU, with the express aim of increasing job security, continuity of employment and opportunities for career progression.‚Äč

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