Upholding rights of fixed-term workers in higher education

16 March 2017 | last updated: 12 July 2018

UCU has consistently campaigned for the rights of casual and fixed term staff in higher education. In 2015 this included pursuing a case to the Supreme Court, against the University of Stirling, on the principle of the union's right to be consulted about the proposed redundancy dismissal of staff on fixed term contracts.

The Supreme Court's ruling in UCU's favour followed years of campaigning by our union for all parts of the workforce to receive protection when jobs are at risk, and was on the back of other similar claims also taken by the union, including an appeal in a claim against the University of Lancaster to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Reprehensibly, the UK government then moved the goalposts so that an employer proposing to dismiss fixed term employees is no longer subject to the same consultation obligations as would apply to permanent staff.  Nevertheless, our campaigning and negotiating means that in many universities we do still have strong collective agreements between our union and the employer, which ensures management do consult with UCU where fixed term contracts are coming to an end.

Our negotiations, campaigns, and legal battles on this issue across the UK have resulted in an estimated 560 employees on fixed term contracts sharing out an estimated £1.33 million as a result of the cases we brought. The union will continue to fight for the rights of all staff, and campaign against the exploitative employment model which underpins much of higher education.

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