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Bristol University UCU - showing how it's done

22 October 2015 | last updated: 22 January 2016

The UCU branch at Bristol University is another example of a branch that has made targeting casualisation a strategic focus for some years now and it seems to be paying off.

Following high profile UCU campaigning with the local research staff group, the branch has won agreement from the university that all new research staff will be appointed on open-ended contracts unless the role is clearly a fixed-duration project. This is important for two reasons. Firstly it's significant because the university had mooted plans to do exactly the opposite and relax the circumstances under which it was considered legitimate to use fixed-term contracts. Instead, it has made a welcome move in the direction of weakening the link between finite research funding and the use of fixed-term contracts.
The UCU branch has also been fighting hard for its hourly-paid teaching staff. It has negotiated with the university the implementation of a new policy that will allow more hourly paid staff to convert onto fractional contract if they work 310 hours in a year (all working hours, not teaching contact). While the branch was unable to formally 'agree' the final policy as it still falls short in some areas, the union nonetheless recognises that this is a big step forward. It has also been helping to make sure that hourly paid lecturers feel the benefit by getting agreement for dozens of staff to be moved onto fractional contracts.
This shows what can be done when a UCU branch concentrates its collective campaigning and bargaining energy on casualisation and the branch is rightly proud of its work. But it's also taking the vital step of using its record to recruit and organise further among casualised staff, producing this fantastic newsletter to showcase its work, inform potential members of how the union can help them and urge them to join.
Many branches out there have a lot to be proud of in their campaigning against casualisation. If you want to produce your own newsletter aimed at staff on casualised contracts, we've produced some very simple templates you can use and adapt. They can be downloaded, along with more useful materials, here.