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UCU Edinburgh - winning on zero-hours contracts

3 November 2014

UCU Edinburgh has worked locally in three areas simultaneously to try to change its management's approach to the use of zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) alongside the national campaign led by UCU's Anti-Casualisation Committee.

The points below are a summary of the steps we have taken.

Data collection

  • Qualitative survey of members and non-members on their experiences of hourly contracts (Dec 2012-Jan 2013). Quotes from this survey later used in the petition.
  • Initial proportions of staff on zero-hours contract emerged (Nov 2012).
  • Total numbers of staff on different contracts (open-ended, open-ended with a review date, fixed-term, hourly) broken down by grade, gender, college/support group, job function from Edinburgh University, by an TULR(C)A request (Jan 2013).
  • Total numbers of staff on different contracts (open-ended, open-ended with a review date, fixed term, hourly, and any other) from all Scottish universities, under FOI request (May 2013)
  • UCU HQ requesting numbers and details about number of academic and related staff zero hours contracts from all UK HEIs and FEIs, under FOI (June 2013).

Campaigning and organising

  • Setting up a postgrad and postdoc network (the majority of ZHCs at Edinburgh are held by postgrads and postdocs) with presentations at postgrad induction days, regular meetings (with officers from student union present) and a Facebook group.
  • Postgrad/postdoc rep on the committee
  • Postgrad/postdoc rep liaising with student union on campaigning etc (regular meetings with officers and the student union postgrad rep).
  • Attending annual national meeting of members on casualised contracts.
  • Events: anti-casualisation workshop on 6 March (UCU day of action) with UCU Scotland.
  • Petition: a petition launched on 6 April, addressed to the principal, requesting better conditions and pay for tutors, demonstrators and other hourly paid staff - with stall and signing outside student union, as well as circulating petition online (eg UCU mailing lists). The petition was supported in a motion by the student union
  • Postgrad/postdoc regular meetings and postgrad/postdoc rep attending open 'question time' meeting with principal to raise the issue
  • Media: survey results and Edinburgh University numbers published on our website, eventually shared with MSPs via regional officials, as well as shared with credible newspapers (eg Herald).


  • Human Resource Policy Development Group (consisting of HR and union reps) developed project to review how ZHCs are used (January to July 2013) with UCU Scotland input.
  • University senior management decided to give staff guaranteed hours and to move to pro-rata contracts (August 2013)
  • Understand your university politics: what are its weak points?
  • Keep going: persistence pays off.

UCU Edinburgh

Last updated: 11 March 2019