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Use of 'casual worker' contracts to be ended at University of Sheffield

13 July 2018

University of Sheffield UCU have secured a major win in the union's campaign against casualisation, getting a commitment from their management that teaching staff will no longer be employed on 'casual worker' contracts.

To the shame of the sector, tens of thousands of higher education teaching staff are employed as 'workers' which means that they miss out on key employment rights and other staff benefits. It's totally unnecessary to employ people in this way for teaching work and the only advantage for university employers is that workers are cheaper to employ and easier to discard. Even more shamefully, the use of workers is heavily concentrated in the so called 'elite' Russell Group of universities.

A major plank of UCU's anti-casualisation strategy has been to encourage branches to table more proactive local claims, targeting key casualisation issues such as the use of workers and other forms of zero hours contracts, while simultaneously exposing the disgraceful use of these contracts in the public sphere.

Sheffield UCU got involved in this campaign early and submitted a claim at the beginning of 2017 that called for the university to stop engaging people as workers. The commitment they have now won from their management makes clear that all scheduled teaching will be undertaken by people on open ended or fixed-term employment contracts and, crucially, it also provides budgetary support for departments to allow for the extra cost involved in recruiting people to employment contracts.

As the branch say, it's a big win and it follows earlier successes at Edinburgh and Glasgow universities. The abuse of casual worker arrangements is firmly in the union's sights and every university that continues to use this and other forms of zero hours contract is on notice that they will be next.

Critically, also, Sheffield UCU are not stopping with this win. They are continuing to target other manifestations of casualisation and, alongside their sister branches at Glasgow and Edinburgh, are demonstrating what can be won by branches who keep casualisation at the top of their agenda and target it with proactive collective bargaining and campaigning.

UCU has recently launched a new campaign pack for branches, pulling together all the best practice and experience in our union and providing a set of model resources for any branch that picks up the campaign against casualisation. Now's the time to get involved.

Last updated: 13 July 2018