Warwick staff to demonstrate against casualisation, 19th June

(Text reproduced from the Hourly Pay at Warwick Facebook group. Follow their page for the latest updates on Teach Higher, and the position of casual staff at Warwick.)

“No to the ‘insourcing’ and further casualisation of academic staff!”

TeachHigher threatens job security and quality education at ALL UK universities.

Make your voice heard at Warwick University Open Day!

Warwick University staff and students call on their colleagues across UK Higher Education to support them in resisting TeachHigher. TeachHigher is a scheme whereby hourly paid academic staff will no longer be recruited and employed by academic departments but contracted via this new ‘internal academic recruitment and administration service’. TeachHigher is being piloted at Warwick but intends to franchise out at universities across the UK.

We oppose TeachHigher because it will institutionalise and entrench a two-tier system of academic staffing at Warwick – further separating off hourly-paid academics from those on more secure contracts. It will give Human Resources control over hiring and firing – not only threatening the autonomy of academic departments but also making it easier for central management to recruit ever larger numbers of hourly-paid and casualised staff while continuing to reduce the number of secure and permanent positions. TeachHigher staff will be employed on even worse terms and conditions than those currently endured by hourly paid academics at Warwick.

TeachHigher represents a threat not just at Warwick, but to anyone working and studying at a UK university. Warwick Employment Group plan to sell TeachHigher as a commercial franchise to other universities. In fact, Warwick is already complicit in promoting casualisation and precarity at numerous other UK Higher Education institutions, via Warwick-owned agency UniTemps which contracts mainly catering and cleaning staff but also some admin and academic staff. TeachHigher looks suspiciously like another version of Unitemps – a national outsourcing agency for academic staff – unless we stop it now!

Active opposition to TeachHigher among Warwick staff and students has already met with two small but significant victories – collective resistance can work! Massive public meetings, extensive press coverage and so-far three academic departments voting to boycott TeachHigher has resulted in the cancellation of the pilot scheme due to begin in April, and its postponement until October 2015. Management have also begun to backtrack on the outsourcing question – whereas the initial website for TeachHigher described it as a ‘subsidiary’ company, it is now claimed that it will be an academic services department. But there is still much to be done…

We need to act now, and act together, to put an end to TeachHigher once and for all!

This demonstration is supported by Warwick UCU.

HOW TO GET HERE: The nearest railway stations to Warwick University campus are Coventry and Leamington Spa. Do not go to Warwick train station (it is far away, and has no public transport links.) From Coventry station catch the number 11 or 12 bus, from Leamington Spa catch the U1. 19th June is a Warwick University open day, so transport may be congested – leave lots of time to get here. There may be free shuttle buses running from Coventry railway station to campus.


UCL teaching assistants to unveil research on unpaid work at open meeting

After this week’s publication of a damning report by campaigners at Kings College London on the extent of unpaid work at that university, another local campaign is about to unveil the results of another investigation into the exploitation of postgraduate teaching assistants.

The Fair Play for TAs campaign at University College London has called an open meeting on Tuesday to release the results of their own survey and what the next steps should be for their local campaign to tackle exploitation. Their evidence shows that, for those UCL postgraduate teaching assistants who are paid at all, 40% of hours worked go unpaid. And 4% of their respondents worked as teaching assistants completely for free! The campaign has called for UCL PhD students to join the meeting, and says that supporters are also welcome.

Open meeting:
17:30 Tuesday 19 May

B03 (Ricardo Lecture Theatre), Drayton House, UCL, 30 Gordon Street

Please click attending on the Facebook event and invite friends and colleagues
And click here to find and support the UCL Fair Play for TAs campaign on Facebook!

King’s GTAs call for an end to exploitative working conditions

Copied from the GTAs at Kings College London blog here – please support the KCL GTA campaign!

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) today issue a report detailing the exploitative working conditions they face at King’s College London (KCL). The report collates the responses to an online survey of over 400 graduate teaching assistants and PhD students at KCL in February 2015. The results present a damning picture of exploitation within the university, with 96% of GTAs working more than their contracted hours to perform their teaching duties (1). GTAs are now launching a campaign to demand fair pay for every hour worked.

Preparation and marking are the worst areas for GTAs working unpaid overtime. When preparing for classes, 82% of GTAs work over their contracted hours to get the work done. When marking, 61% of GTAs work over their contracted hours to finish marking students’ work on time.

39% of GTAs feel that the amount of hours that they are contracted to work affects the quality of their marking, and 39% feel that it affects the quality of the feedback they can give to each student.

One GTA commented: ‘My students cannot receive the standard of teaching or feedback that they expect or deserve, or that the university promises them, unless I consistently and persistently work extra hours for free.’

Another GTA stated: ‘“I can barely check if [their] calculations and results are correct.”

In the National Student Survey, KCL students consistently cite inadequate feedback as a source of dissatisfaction. KCL student newspaper, Roar, reported that ‘King’s are conning thousands of undergraduates by forcing teaching assistants to work at impossible speeds in “nightmarish” conditions – leading to “unfair” essay-marking and botched seminars.’ (2)

Similarly surveys of GTA conditions have been undertaken at various academic institutions, including Queen Mary University, University College London, and Warwick. From these investigations, a clear trend emerges: GTAs are used as a source of cheap labour, undertaking core teaching tasks for a fraction of the cost of full time academic staff, at the same time as student fees have risen to over £9000 pounds per year. (3)

This campaign is taking place alongside a national campaign to improve pay and conditions for part time teaching staff, Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE), which held a the national conference at SOAS in February 2015. The conference brought casualised academic workers together, to discuss and organise for their fight for better labour conditions. (3)

  1. https://kclgtas.wordpress.com/
  2. http://roarnews.co.uk/wordpress/?p=17677
  3. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/fractional-teachers-to-press-for-better-deal-nationwide/2018464.article

For interviews, please call Sita Balani – 07783438458, or email kclgtas@gmail.com


From the GTAs…

IMG_0480 IMG_0513 IMG_0524 IMG_0539

My students cannot receive the standard of teaching or feedback that they expect or deserve, or that the university promises them, unless I consistently and persistently work extra hours for free.

If I spend 90 minutes marking a bad paper then I end up getting paid £3.10 an hour. Since I can’t afford to work this way I compromise by spending less time, and offering less detailed feedback so the student suffers.

Furthermore, as there is not time assigned for marking training, if we have not done it before we have to teach ourselves and have no guidance for whether we are doing it correctly or not (apart from being told to ask a colleague, which would eat into their time and they might not be willing and neither party would be paid).

The papers need to be read quickly even to read them in double the time that is actually paid. The feedback needs to be generalised, to an extent, because there is no paid time to do them. Students are not getting the full benefits of learning in the course because of these issues.

If I were to stick to the hours I was contracted for, I would prepare perhaps a quarter of the required reading per week and mark a third of the essays with reduced feedback.

In case one sticks to the paid 6 hours obviously the quality of the teaching, the feedback to the students etc. breaks down to a low level. It cannot be of interest to KCL that that happens in case one really wants top teaching, top graduates and top reputation and everything for 9000 pounds per year.

GTAs [graduate teaching assistants] and other casualised labour are used to cut costs – perhaps reducing the quality of students’ experiences, or perhaps just exploiting the GTAs. We are too often not used as ‘extras’ but as actual lecturers, yet without the fair pay or levels of experience.

It’s not possible to mark a lab report in one hour. I have been doing this for 3 years now and got fairly fast and efficient with it and by now really do know my subject. But providing the student with helpful feedback while ensuring you mark the student fairly is not possible in one hour. I can barely check if his calculations and results are correct in the short time allocated for marking and feedback.

It’s a huge amount of work which is appallingly paid. Frankly, I treat GTA teaching as an act of charity.

It seems generally recognised that having the GTA attend the lecture they’ll be teaching on enables them to see things from the student’s perspective, address questions that come up, and generally do a better job of teaching the material. We’re only paid for one hour of preparation and doing each week’s reading takes at least two hours (on a good day) so many GTAs attend these lectures unpaid. Given it would result pretty quickly in a better student experience one thing that would straightforwardly help in my department at least would be paying the GTAs to attend these lectures. One hour preparation time is a joke in terms of how long it takes to teach material well. However, at least recognising this one form in which GTAs already go above and beyond and paying us for it would be welcome.

Lack of respect from professors, and admin staff. GTAs are treated like a free labour and are not respected

KCL GTA Report

Warwick Uni to outsource hourly paid academics to subsidiary

Teach Higher is a company which will effectively outsource hourly paid academic staff, whereby they will no longer be employed directly by the university but by a separate employer: ‘Teach Higher’. Teach Higher has been set up by Warwick University-owned ‘Warwick Employment Group’, and is about to be piloted at Warwick University. But it is a national company, which intends to be rolled out across UK universities.

(In this sense it is very similar to Uni Temps, which mainly employed, catering, cleaning and security staff at universities. We don’t know why Warwick decided to set up a separate company for outsourced academic staff, except that they possibly felt the need for ‘re-branding’ because it slightly more difficult to impose hyper-casualised positions on a previously more prestigious type of work such as academia.)

Teach Higher is about to be piloted with six Departments at Warwick; Sociology, Philosophy, Politics and International Studies, Mathematics, Chemistry and Modern Foreign Languages. This academic year hourly paid academics will be recruited via Teach Higher only in order to carry out exam invigilation. They plan to pilot it with all other academic work (e.g. teaching) from October 2015 onwards.

Teach Higher represents a significant threat not only to working conditions of casualised academic staff, but also to the possibilities for organisation and resistance. The outsourcing of hourly paid academic staff will very clearly institutionalise what is already beginning to look like a two tier system within academia – separating out low paid casualised staff (who increasingly do the bulk of departmental teaching) from permanent staff.

Because staff employed by Teach Higher will no longer be employed directly by the University, this means they will lose union recognition, will not be covered by national pay bargaining etc., and, crucially, will not be able to participate in national industrial action voted for by UCU in Higher Education. For a couple of years now, casualised academic staff in Higher Education have been beginning to organise at a grassroots level – no longer willing to put up with working excessively long hours for what works out at less than the minimum wage, when universities increasingly rely on us to provide the majority of their teaching. In February 2015 a national FACE conference (Fighting Against Casualisation in Education), attended by over 150 people, brought together casualised academics from across the UK to share their experiences of organising against this kind of exploitation and to make plans to work together in the future. Perhaps Teach Higher should be seen as management’s response to such exciting new developments, an ideal way to divide and rule Higher Education employees and rollback what meagre trade union rights we have at present.

Teach Higher claims that it wants to make the employment of casualised academic staff more ‘standardised and efficient’. We say that the best way to achieve this is to end casualised contracts and give fractional and fixed-term staff the same rights as permanent staff.

What you can do:

Use of zero hours contracts in education increases

Harry Stopes, UCL Fair Play for TAs

‘Zero Hours’ contracts (employment contracts which do not guarantee any hours) have become increasingly controversial in the last few years. In the media they are generally associated with industries such as hotels, food production, and retail, where extreme exploitation of employees is the norm. Figures just released by the Office of National Statistics show that the use of ZHCs has increased by around 28% in the last year. What these figures also show is that the use of such contracts is common across a wide range of sectors, including education. Indeed, while the ONS report from April 2014 showed that 15% of education “businesses” used ZHCs, the February 2015 report shows that figure increasing to 27%.

When I’ve written about this issue in the past, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association has been at pains to claim that universities don’t really use ZHCs very much. “Universities are not like Sports Direct”, a UCEA spokesman told me in November. While that might be true in a very narrow sense – and the ONS report captures a wide range of employers, most of which are not universities – this is not reassuring. The figures clearly show that the work force in education is increasingly casualised. It’s getting worse, not better. The experience of Adjunct Professors in the United States – who yesterday staged a walkout in protest over their appallingly low rates of pay – shows very clearly that unless arrested, this is the way that education moves in a neoliberal economy and society.

These figures underline how important it is that everyone in UK Higher Education should be fighting against casualisation.

Solidarity with US National Adjunct Walkout Day!

Yesterday saw a National Adjunct Walkout Day in the USA – walkouts, demonstrations, teach-ins and rallies across the country protested the exploitation of casualised academic workers.

A map showing locations across the US where action took place for NAWD

FACE sends solidarity to our counterparts facing low pay, poor conditions and precarious employment in educational institutions around the world, and we congratulate the US adjuncts on their day of action! A few activists from the SOAS Fractionals and Queen Mary Against Casualisation local campaigns got together to take a picture showing our support. Please let us know if your campaign marked the day too!