FACE opposes the Green Paper!

The Higher Education Green Paper will intensify existing processes of casualisation, which we know damages the relationship between lecturers and students and makes it harder to achieve true teaching ‘excellence’. The for-profit ‘private providers’ that the Green Paper wants to encourage to take over both HE institutions and individual courses will inevitably employ more staff on short term, insecure and zero hours contracts. This will further undermine national bargaining and pay scales and ultimately the ability of the union to act collectively on behalf of the academic workforce as a whole.

The vague proposal for one of the metrics for the Teaching Excellence Framework to be based upon how much teaching is done by permanent staff is nothing more than window dressing. It is embedded with a wider and much more profound project to privatise the university system as a whole. Such privatisation has always gone hand in hand with casualisation, a process which will not be halted even if the above proposal should be included in the final TEF. Casualisation not only blights the lives of academic workers who don’t know where next year’s income will be coming from, it also means they do not stay at institutions long enough to build meaningful relationships with students and are required to teach courses without adequate preparation time. Under such conditions even the most talented and dedicated lecturers are prevented from doing their best for students. The way to ensure genuine ‘quality’ teaching is to pay lecturers a decent wage on secure contracts, and give us enough time and resources to support our students in striving for excellence.


The 6 Universities Relying Most on Teaching-only Staff

Birkbeck, the University of West London (UWL) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) top the list of institutions relying heavily on junior-grade, teaching-only staff, according to figures obtained by Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE). At Birkbeck, more than a third of recorded academic staff are teaching fellows or teaching assistants, compared to a sector-wide average of less than one in ten, with UWL close behind at 32 per cent. SOAS and the University of Kent both employ 29 per cent of their academic staff on junior-grade, teaching-only contracts, while at the University of Essex and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) the figure is a quarter.

Institution Percentage Absolute number
Birkbeck 33% 315
University of West London 32% 275
SOAS 29% 155
University of Kent 29% 545
University of Essex 25% 265
LSE 25% 385
Sector average 9% 17,165

The data was provided to FACE by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and is taken from the most recent national Staff Record. It covers non-clinical, teaching-only staff with at least a Masters degree, employed at contract levels L0 (‘Teaching assistant’) and K0 (‘Teaching fellow’). FACE requested a list of the ten institutions relying most heavily on these contracts, then excluded unrepresentative institutions such as the Open University, specialist colleges with fewer than 100 reported staff and conservatoires.The data excludes staff whose highest qualification is listed as ‘Unknown’, meaning that the real figures are likely even higher.

The HESA Staff Record is compiled from data self-reported by institutions. It does not include staff employed through agencies and other outsourcing firms, even when such companies are consolidated into an institution’s own accounts, or those who are technically self-employed. For obvious reasons, it also excludes those who lack a formal contract of employment, such as Ph.D. students made to teach as a condition of some studentships. As such, the Staff Record systematically underrecords the number of casualised staff in higher education institutions across the UK.

FACE is a network of academic workers organising for grassroots action and fighting for better conditions. Have a look at our seven demands for casualised workers in higher education, or follow us on Twitter for details of our next organising meeting. Everyone is welcome—join us!

Update, 16 March 2016: In a press release responding to a Times Higher Education article on this blog post, a Birkbeck spokesperson claims that including their institution in the table above is unfair, as Birkbeck “employ[s] many part-time teaching staff, who are reported to HESA [the Higher Education Statistics Agency] as “typical”; whereas most institutions record part-time staff as “atypical”, rendering them invisible in this data.’ This is misleading. According to HESA’s own guidance, ‘atypical’ contracts must meet one of the following four criteria: ‘Are for less than four consecutive weeks’; ‘Are for one-off/short-term tasks’ (examples given include ‘answering phones during clearing, staging an exhibition, organising a conference’); ‘Involve work away from the supervision of the normal work provider’; ‘Involve a high degree of flexibility often in a contract to work as-and-when required’. FACE finds the claim that institutions are reporting large numbers of their teaching staff  (who almost by definition have fixed, timetabled duties lasting longer than four weeks) in this category to be questionable at best, particularly when there exists a separate category for ‘fixed-term’ employees. The broader issues around the HESA Staff Record’s reliability were acknowledged in our original post.

Photo: Senate House, by Steve Parker.

  1. The excluded institutions are as follows: Open University, 63 per cent; Heythrop College, 34 per cent; Royal Academy of Music, 24 per cent; Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, 23 per cent.

How to Start an Anti-Casualisation Campaign

The following short guide was written by FACE activists and posted on the FACE Campaign Wiki. This is a free resource for information on local anti-casualisation campaigns, open to and editable by all. Please register an account and add information about your own institution, or edit and expand what’s already there, including the guide below. You can also add your institution or campaign to the following editable map (click to open in a new window).

1. Get organised

The first step to getting a local anti-casualisation campaign off the ground is gathering a group of activists and supporters. This isn’t always easy but there are a few obvious starting point for this:

  • Your friends—Persuading busy people that they want to be involved with a potentially time-consuming campaign is challenging. So start with the “Low-hanging fruit”. The people at work you have a personal relationship with, who have experience of the same working conditions as you, who you sit around your department with moaning about work, are often the best place to start when it comes to getting organised.
  • The union—Your local UCU branch might have an “anti-casualisation rep”, they’ll definitely have a members list, including hopefully a list of all their casualised worker members.  
  • The student union—Your institution’s postgraduate student rep will usually be sympathetic to PhDs working for the university and might already be dealing with some of their work-related problems. Also, they can email every postgrad at the university.
  • Activist groups—Free Education campaigns, workers’ rights campaigns (like Justice for Cleaners and stuff like that), and other activist groups and left-wing groups will probably know a few people who are going to be interested in a workers’ rights campaigns.
  • Events—If your UCU branch is having a meeting, going on strike or having a demo, come along and see who you can meet and get involved in your campaign. Picket lines in particular are a great place to meet dissatisfied staff!
  • National events—You often meet people from your own institution at things like UCU casualised staff conferences and national FACE meetings.

Once you get a few people together it’s important to move fast. Casualised staff are by their nature transient (if you work September to June, by January if it’s almost too late). As soon as you make a few contacts get an informal meeting together to discuss the issues that matter to you and to plan your next move. Set up an email list (try Google Groups) to discuss things online. Then think about setting up a Facebook account, drawing up a leaflet and posters, then organising a public meeting to see what other contacts you can make.

2. Get informed

Once you’ve brought people together and discussed your respective situations, it’s important to gather some data to back up your case. This can be done in two main ways: (1) by talking to your colleagues; (2) by talking to the university. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

If you have a relatively large group of interested colleagues, try conducting a survey about their working conditions. Create an anonymous survey using an online service such as SurveyMonkey. What you ask will depend on the nature of your dispute, but you might include questions about the following: type of contract; rate of pay; if hourly-paid, number of hours contracted for; number of hours actually worked in a given time period (e.g. a week). Don’t get too hung up on issues such as sample size—getting people to fill out even a relatively short survey is a lot of work, and while it’s great if you can get statistically watertight data, its propaganda value is just as (if not more) important. To this end, make sure to include a general ‘comments’ section at the end of the survey, which will allow you to collect some juicy qualitative data to go alongside the quantitative results: horror stories are always handy for publicity. For richer information on hours, consider conducting a more formal ‘working diary’ activity with a smaller group, in which everyone agrees to record their hours worked for a week.

Contacting your employer directly can be a good way to get a bigger picture of working conditions, e.g. the total number of employees on a certain type of contract, allowing you to drill down into specific departments or groups using surveys. While you may have some success requesting information informally, it’s likely that you’ll need to use Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. Unfortunately, there are a number of exemptions in the FoI Act which universities are able to use to avoid providing information. If your request is too broad, the university will either refuse it on the grounds that it would cost more than £450 to fulfill (Section 12) or point out that the information is available from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Section 21). If it concerns their competitiveness as an institution (e.g. in the case of employment practices), they may also refuse it on grounds of commercial sensitivity (Section 43). So keep your requests specific and targeted, and be prepared to argue your case. Bear in mind that FoI requests can take a long time to fulfill (usually 20 working days, with amendments or clarifications treated as new requests)—factor delays into your campaign plans.

To avoid duplicating effort, make sure to get in touch with your UCU branch before starting on the leg-work of surveys and FoIs—they may already have much of the data that you need, or at least something that can be used as a basis for further investigation. The level of solidarity with casualised staff will, however, vary from institution to institution, so don’t feel beholden to your branch committee’s view of the situation: take cues from your immediate colleagues and their problems, and work from there.

3. Get the word out

Once you feel you have a clear picture of what working conditions in general—and any specific grievances that might crop up, say in particular departments or particular types of work—you need to get as many people involved in your campaign as possible.

This means getting people who are on those contracts involved:

  • Talk to your colleagues
  • Where can you find them? They may be fragmented
  • Again, the union may be helpful
  • Think about what you are asking them to get involved with. Be specific, but not necessarily too specific or promise too much action too soon: you don’t want to scare people off

It also means as many people as possible who might support (though these are less valuable if you don’t have any active colleagues, so concentrate on them first). This could include students, but more useful is permanent colleagues. You might have an idea of who’s sympathetic from staff meetings etc. Start with them.

Think about what you’re driving towards? Has your information gathering thrown up a clear demand that is generalisable across the institution? Or alternatively, is there scope for a specific campaign in one part of the institution, like one department? Is marking not paid? Does one department pay significantly less preparation time than another? You don’t necessarily have to push to confront everything at the first go. A successful campaign on a limited demand will build momentum for more, more succesful than a larger campaign that fizzes out or never gets going.

  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Door knocking (especially if you can get lists of casual staff)
  • A big meeting
  • Once you have a demand, a petition?

If your information-gathering has thrown up some newsworthy figures, draft a press release and send it out to reporters at local papers, education editors at the nationals, and dedicated publications like Times Higher Education. If you know relevant journalists personally and the story is good enough, contact them first to offer an exclusive. Get in touch with FACE, too, and we’ll try to disseminate your story far and wide!

Responding to the select committee on TEF

This morning the department of Business Innovation and Skills held a Q&A session on the proposals to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework, outlined in the recent Higher Education Green Paper. In this session the select committee put questions to NUS president, Megan Dunn, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, Professor Jon Scott (Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester,) and Stuart Cannell, (Student reviewer with the Quality Assurance Agency).

(You can read more about the Teaching Excellence Framework here)

The Q&A session kicked off with a very crucial question: what problem is the TEF trying to solve?

According to Universities minister, Jo Johnson, the answer to this question is ‘patchy’ teaching quality. The solution? Allow universities to charge more if they score well according to set of metrics calculating graduate earnings data and student feedback.

Thankfully, this was challenged by the panel supplying evidence on a number of levels (not all of which will be discussed here), but most notably by offering the suggestion that the terms and conditions of teachers might be a better place to start. The responses of the select committee to this evidence offered an interesting insight into how little casualisation is widely understood to be the context for talking about university teaching.

UCU’s Sally Hunt was clear to set this out, pointing out to the panel how in the context of a total of 200,000 staff on ‘teaching only’ contracts in the sector, 100,000 of these were on fixed term or hourly contracts. That is, 50% of that workforce is employed through insecure and inadequate terms of employment, despite often being fundamental to the delivery of core teaching. This is in comparison to a total of 6% rate of casualisation in the wider labour market (according to the ONS). This is also a drop in the ocean compared to the overall rate of casualisation across teaching and research.

The response to this? It seemed that there was a dawning realisation that this might have a negative effect on people’s ability to do the kind of job that universities are demanding of them.

This is an important development, since previously casualisation was not a key part of the discussion. Yet, the relationship between gender, race and disability in relation to casualisation was still not given the prominence it deserves.

The second point of revelation was in relation to the conditions for postgraduate teachers, who are working during the course of the PhD (GTAs). NUS president Megan Dunn brought this up (which is a promising development given her lack of awareness of this issue in relation to the TEF previously).

The committee seemed to ignore the question of pay, in favour of focusing on the lack of training that GTAs received.

Professor Jon Scott suggested that GTAs received training, support and pay for preparation: an assessment that many of the activists in FACE would disagree with, particularly where training is unpaid and yet mandatory. Likewise, a select committee member raised concerns about how regulating pay for postgraduate teachers might damage the ‘free exchange of knowledge’. This lack of interest in pay, in favour of notions of ‘professional development’ is indicative of the kind of liberal rhetoric used to mask the exploitation of postgraduates behind idealised notions of academic experience. Such a position is strikingly similar to the mentality surrounding the exploitation inherent in the internship model adopted in other sectors.

An encouraging sign was the general consensus that linking the TEF to a raise in tuition fees would undermine its stated aims of widening participation and improving quality.

It is important, however, to qualify this with the bigger picture. The TEF must been seen in the context of the HE green paper, which introduces a whole raft of measures designed to turn university education into a commodity. It would be very naive to suppose that the stated aims of the TEF have anything to do with the thinking behind its implementation.

Casualisation is an inherent feature of the neo-liberal economy, and as such an unavoidable fact of the marketisation of education. The ideology supporting the modern privatised university requires a dispensable and atomised work-force.

So, while it is good to see these panel members drawing attention to casualisation, we should be under no illusions that fighting against this trend requires anything less than fully opposing the marketisation of HE in the first instance.

You can read more about FACE’s analysis of casulisation in HE in the Guardian article here.

This piece was written by Jess Patterson, a organisor within FACE

Reports from our 2nd National Conference

Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE)’s 2nd National Conference was held at University College London on November 21, 2015. Below are detailed reports from the day’s individual sessions – we will continue to add to them as new reports come through. (Header image by Samantha Galbraith, @sgalbraith47 on Twitter.)

Opening panel

Speakers: Sanaz Raji (Justice4Sanaz), Craig Gent (Warwick), Mzomhle Bixa (National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union), Tom King (SOAS Student Union) Myka Abramson (FACE). Chair: Tobias Franz (SOAS).

Chair Tobias Franz introduced proceedings by discussing the Fractionals for Fair Play campaign at SOAS and its importance in putting the issues of undervalued and unrecognized junior academics on the map. He then briefly discussed the formation of FACE in 2014 and the work that has been done to build the network subsequently.

Myka Abramson summarized the broader social context out of which FACE emerged. She noted that the university has become a primary battleground of the neoliberalisation of society. The casualisation of academic labour forms part of a wider social project to kill off public education and turn higher education institutions into corporate businesses, and turn students into consumers who are trained to expect more value for their money. She sounded a note of hope by saying that the university is also a space of resistance as demonstrated by successful struggles against neoliberal reforms at campuses around the world, and concluded by saying that FACE is an important site of struggle in this resistance.

Tom King discussed recent developments at SOAS, including potential course cuts and job losses, the occupation enacted to resist them, and the suspension of Sandy Nicholl, SOAS UNISON Branch Secretary. He described the successes in resisting these developments such as the proposed establishment of an academic senate, and the reinstatement of Nicholl after two days of protest on campus.

Craig Gent outlined the victorious campaign against the TeachHigher insourcing subsidiary at Warwick. The TeachHigher arrangements would have entailed restrictions on the ability to engage in industrial action and a potential leveling down of pay. Staff managed to get the university to abolish TeachHigher through a boycott of TeachHigher posts, good departmental networks, collaboration with the Warwick for Free Education student group, national organizing, and media pressure.

Sanaz Raji spoke about her victimization and bullying at the University of Leeds and used her case to highlight the structural racism and other forms of discrimination in UK Higher Education. She noted that the systems which are put in place to adjudicate disputes between universities and students are heavily stacked in favour of universities. She also highlighted how a punitive and harsh student immigration system makes it difficult and precarious to organize against such injustices.

The session concluded with a recorded interview with Mzomhle Bixa, a trade unionist involved in the Feesmustfall movement in South Africa. He spoke off the importance of the alliances between students and outsourced workers. He noted the challenges of mobilising students and workers but emphasized the progress made in their struggle, especially that they had forced the University of Cape Town management to come and negotiate with them.



Precarious organising

The session discussed how precarious workers have organised and what forms of organising might work best in future in precarious workplaces. We heard examples from organising ESOL teachers in FE (Amy), outsourced support staff at Senate House (Henry) and casualised teaching staff in HE (Jack). Jack also reminded us with historical examples that there is a 200 year history of unions organising precarious workers- eg workers in the car industry were very militant but not because they had job security- their jobs were precarious too- solidarity can be made.

• In FE where people were working short term contracts it helped to have a core of people on longer contracts- they were central to the campaign and could see it through.
• An early win (on higher pay) helped get people involved and built a more diverse union branch.
• At Senate house outsourced workers (cleaners, security staff, porters) took unofficial strike action and won after waiting for 3 months without pay. They have also fought for the living wage, pensions, sick pay and holidays. Barriers to organising included the language barrier and the workers’ fear and lack of knowledge about their rights.
• In this case support from students (making leaflets, writing to management, help with union casework) was useful. Among teaching assistants in HE it was also important to link up with other campaigns on campus.
• The workers at Senate house were organised by Unison but felt the union was putting barriers in the way of the campaign. 80-90 of them left and started a branch of the IWGB which meant less financial support but more freedom to make their own decisions.
• However, in FE it helped to use UCU as a tool, to be part of the national anti-casualisation campaign and to try to improve that campaign, but also to put pressure on the national union where they aren’t supportive. The union does have recognition and can be leaned on.
• Among the casualised teaching staff in HE activists needed to work at “breakneck speed”. If people are teaching from September to May starting to contact them in March was too late. Don’t wait until you are big enough- act first and use the action to build the campaign.
• Writing to teaching assistants to encourage them to join a picket line (on a UCU one-day strike) and having a big picket line with a creative banner helped get people talking about the issues.
• With a sympathetic head of department it was possible to win some demands especially around increasing hours of paid preparation time and getting full job descriptions. But pay rates are decided at uni-wide level and it was more difficult to scale up the campaign- people who knew each other personally were easier to convince to take action than strangers and people in other departments have their own distinctive concerns.
• We need to look at how we can turn precarious conditions in our favour rather than always seeing it as a limitation.
• Fear? Some workers have more to lose- for academics there is an incentive to keep heads down and get the future prize- actually casualised work is the new normal and even permanent work will be eroded due to casualisation- need to tell people this.
• Insecurity can disrupt the academic relationship- eg if your supervisor’s job is insecure it can impact on you as a student.
• There are too many unions on campus- it would be better if everyone was in one!
• If we are complaining to HR eg about late payment we need to recognise that the HR staff are also exploited- they are not the enemy, management are.
• There is a question of where to apply the pressure? How can FACE appeal to PhDs with stipends who get their funding from research councils and do not do paid work for the uni?

The Shape of Casualisation

The workshop, ‘The Shape of Casualisation’, saw speakers Jess Patterson, Xanthe Whittaker, Christina Paine, and Noha Abu El Magd. Jess Patterson introduced the components of TEF, its explicit objectives, and the metrics for reaching and pursuing those objectives. Patterson also introduced the subsequent effects and consequences TEF will have on higher education in the UK. Broadly, TEF seeks quantified data that can represent an institution’s value and thus justify increasing tuition fees, while also further enabling the privatization of the universities through the businesses involved in such processes. The TEF will use various processes to pursue these outcomes. One is the already rolled-out REF. The NSS will also have an increased role in determining university value, and increased use of metrics will be issued, such as student feedback forms and monitoring. At Manchester, student feedback forms are already linked to teacher pay, and while the Green Paper notes that their teacher consultants have proposed that permanent contracts be an objective for the new initiatives as well, such metrics seem to undermine permanent contracts or conditions for staff, and increase casualized pay environments.

Such casualized and monitored systems are already progressing at Leicester University, through agencies such as Unitemps, which Xanthe Whittaker reported on. At Leicester, all associate tutors need to be registered on Unitemps. The university is not monitoring how contracts are handled and who (gender/race/background) is affected most. Unitemps is not directly linked to the university and and, as an hourly paid subsidiary, does not need to provide basic rights that the university or other employers must. For example, Whittaker explained that the offering of pension schemes is required by employers, but is not provided by Unitemps. In addition, Unitemps does not pay according to negotiated standards and rates of pay from the national framework. An employee is given numerous contracts, one for each type of work (marking, teaching, etc), while other types are completely omitted (e.g. preparation). Through Unitemps, there is no available route to negotiate for grievances or for cases that require time away, like pregnancy. Nor can Unitemps employees participate in industrial action against the university, as Unitemps is an separate entity so university rights do not apply. Whittaker is curious how to spread awareness and action against such contracts.

Christina Paine presented on the people most effected by such casualized labor, and did so by focusing on women specifically. The Equality Act of 2010 does not guard against today’s casualized environment, which undermines the purpose of The Equality Act. In casualized systems, there is currently no oversight, even if proper legislation existed. Problems have arisen for such cases as: motherhood, gender pay gap, low waged work, access to justice, affordable childcare, are inequality, and marginalized groups. In such casualized environments, women are 55% more likely to have a casual contract, for example. Noha Abu El Magd furthered the discussion by talking about marginalized groups, particularly people of colour and women of colour. By introducing various statistics, such that 99.93% of professors are of white heritage, El Magd showed how people of colour are underrepresented through PhD programs and job advancement in higher education.


Local Anti-Casualisation Campaigns (report in rough note form)

1) Anti-casualisation victories at Warwick University where we have a great example of students and academics crossing boundaries and joining together a struggle to protect Postgrads teachers’ conditions (they stopped the setting up of Teach Higher an agency that would have hired teaching Postgrads as agency workers according to a system of insourcing of teaching taking away control over teaching from academic staff).

How did they organize? Warwick for education students look for bringing students to UCU planning meeting so the campaign against Teach Higher was led by those directly affected which made a huge difference. Strategies involve shaming in public for a of management (that appeared often unprepared) and social media strategy to reach the highest numbers of supporters.

The discussion pointed out that hourly paid staff are under threat all across the country and that was not just Warwick issue. A powerful tool to blame and shame management publicly was to set up a “teach higher trial” web site and of course to threat management to organise a national demonstration the same day of the Open Day.

The students and supporting members of staff campaigned for a universal and fair contract systems for teaching postgrads but Warwick (has not delivered on this yet?)
With regard the role of UCU as branch the process has been positive to the extent that at least they have now to engage seriously with your concerns.
The solidarity from staff was indeed crucial to win and it facilitated access to statistics and information that were important to the development of the campaign and the leveraging tactics vis a vis management.

2) Fractional fair pay at soas
graduate teaching assistances suffer from the multiplier systems according to which the hours they actually work are not rewarded fairly (6 hours to 1 and a half to reply to emails –they calculated 101 hours per term for a 75 hours contract-so the theft is obvious).
They started to organize by conducting a survey – they calculated the hours of unpaid work and that was a successful strategy to get the message across. . They realized the FFFP you tube video also to bring the students on board and make the message clear to them as the first to be affected. From the interviews taken from the video it is interesting to see that just describing ‘who you are/have been’ as a worker for how long tells a lot about casualization in HE the unpredictability of what happens next, the short and intensive nature of teaching for fractionals
Another challenge highlighted by the fractionals is understanding your contract each month, it is understood differently by different people. Realising how much time is unpaid highlight the sense of worthlessness and inferiorisation these students/workers are subject to. In this context the PhD is perceived as a commodity that you buy accompanied by lack of recognition of the value of your work. Recently the fractionals for fair pay have not been so active cause of the new issues that SOAS is facing with cuts and abolishion of many modules.
This is why it is important to continue with Face. It is not about petty demands on terms and conditions specific to each context but a struggle against the precariat more broadly. The campaign has lasted for 2 years. The start was very hard, they took one year to break isolation and forced individualism. Picket lines organised by members of staff and that was an occasion to meet. There was also the issue of invisibility within the hierarchy of academics, and the problem of the transient nature of workforce and understanding the sources of your exploitation- why are you underpaid for your work, and the difficulty of creating a sense of commonality given that contracts cannot be compared with others -sources of exploitation are hidden. The survey was designed to understand where the source of exploitation was, counting preparation time and marking time.
The aim was to opening negotiation with management but eventually even though the management engaged in negotiation the second round of contracts was imposed, against ballots
So now Fractionals for fair pay want to launch a new survey to update what they found to include issues beside the contracts but also casualisation also in relation to the demands developed by FACE at this conference.
With regard the relationship with union branches, there is an understanding that for the negotiation mechanisms you cannot negotiate without a union.
There are 3 reps on the executive committee- there has been a 25 per cent increase in UCU membership since the fractionals organizing but ucu does not seem to appreciate or seize on that result. How to build consensus on the students side?
6 weeks of marking boycott how do you get solidarity from students not as a rant but talking to students at seminars, highlighting that this is a systemic issue and related to commodification (what are you paying for? quality of teaching decreasing if workers are not treated and paid well) Also the relatiomnship with the permanent members of staff is important: make them think that they depend on you and that you need to remind that we are all on the same boat (casualization, intensification of work, lower pay etc). Tactically every year you need to find out who are the new teachers and involve them in the group. Media coverage by face website is important but also newspapers. This is important so that via publicity the new teachers know about the campaign.

The PHd students were required to teach a certain numbers of hours as part of the funding. Contracts in life sciences involved 50 hours of teaching unpaid in exchanged for the scholarship. There was disparity on how teaching was awarded. In Sussex postgraduate reps have been the drivers of the campaign the doctoral school pushed for change and that was very effective.
In theory Sussex is 13th high in the ranking for students satisfaction but national students assessment and feedback are low. Phd students marking this work are unpaid and unrecognized and this is the reason.
It is worth looking into the national student service and use that evidence to show management that bad employment conditions have a direct effect on students satisfaction.

Tactics: students mailing are a good source to have a voice. Thanks to a rep from the doctoral school they found out that they were in breach of regulation accordin to which students receiving funding by UK research council could have have those types of contract requiring teaching. According to the UK research councils guidelines faculities could not attach unpaid labour to scholarship
The result was the repaying of all externally funded PhD students for their previous teaching and the removal of the 50 hours teaching requirement from all phd students contracts in the future. But physic students requirement to teach 130 hours – life sciences teaching contracts are changing making them fair in relation to multiplier- £1000 reimboursement per student was an important victory still.
However school funded students are not protected and there is tjhis two tier workforce that increases sense of unfair treatment for the latter.
There is a lack of protective guideline for school. Postgrads reps are key to push the demands. Faculty members can be your friends
(research done by someone from staff) but management is nasty
No involvement with the union who was not deemed important by the students organizing by themselves, at that point.
teaching requirement no longer there but different stories in different departments differentiation according to departments depends on how much they care about their teaching PhD students.

Summary: 2 to 3 times more money as a result of teach higher campaign
fighting education as a commodity
need to take the students hostage take advantage of this
not agitating them too much cause we want their support
fully funded PhD for everyone
but we are providing work that is needed –value of our work
what happens when you finish your phd fractional working on multiple institutions
casualization continued with senior teaching fellows and teaching fellows-need to think about casulisation more broadly behind PhD students.
student support is crucial
annual reports of university and NSS can be used as tools in the campaign.

Breakout sessions

Citizenship, Borders and Surveillance

In this session we addressed the unbearable discriminatory treatment of international students, international academic staff as well as international support staff within UK Higher Education. Their precarious situation is worsened by the fact that international students and staff members are often facing racism within their institutions and, while having to suffer from the same labour conditions as EU staff and students, they are under the constant threat of deportation. Because of international students’ and staff’s dependency on work and study visas to remain within the country and UK’s restrictive border policies, UK universities as employers and host institutions hold immense power over international students and employees lives. We acknowledged that especially those international students and staff members who speak out against the racist and discriminatory policies and practices enforced by the UK government and by UK universities are extremely vulnerable to having their contracts cancelled and, as a consequence, of loosing their visas and being deported, as recent cases showed (e.g. see Justice4Sanaz). By imposing fear and threat, these policies thus create a huge pressure to comply. One participant remarked the importance of being aware of the additional risks international students and staff face when organising resistance and the need to take these amplified risks into account when organising events.

Furthermore, we addressed how international students and staff who face visa issues are structurally being left alone by their home institutions with little to no effective advice centres in place. Because of this unbearable and isolating situation, we concluded that creating a network offering free legal advice from solidary and reliable sources is imperative. A first step of creating such an infrastructure will be getting in touch with No Border groups within the UK and organising on-campus sessions for international students and staff to inform them about their rights as well as trying to set up legal advice for those who are facing problems. We are also planning to get in touch with the Anti Raid Network based in London to have further support in publicising and stopping potential deportations. Since in visa issues time is of the essence, we concluded the need to immediately make public maltreatment of international students and staff members and to organise protests as soon as we witness these situations in our home universities.

Another related aspect that was raised in the meeting is the enforcement of national policies like PREVENT within UK universities as well as the Monitoring Students’ Attendance scheme. Both of these measures create a situation in which staff members are being forced to take part in border policing and securitisation practices that potentially harm their students visa status. Data from Attendance Monitoring is directly being fed back to the UK Visas and Immigration Office. We criticised UK universities complicity in and affirmation of these practices as well as their strategy to “sell” these restrictive surveillance measures as practices of “care” for the students. One conclusion of our meeting is to call our home departments and universities out to name these monitoring practices as what they are: border policing and racist practices that create an atmosphere of distrust within our institutions and to ask them to stop hiding behind a discourse that tries to sell these practices as “care for the students”. In addition to this demand, we underlined the need for individual and collective subversion in regards to the Attendance Monitoring, which has to be performed by individual lecturers. We encourage the manipulation of registers by teaching staff as well as the need to have as many discussions as possible about these untenable surveillance measures with our colleagues and students and to organise collective resistance to these practices. One participant reported that within her institution the PhD students boycott the signing of the monthly registers.

Finally, it became obvious that our various host institutions are enforcing these monitoring practices quite differently. So, although constantly hiding behind the discourse that it is a national policy they cannot escape from, the individual institutions do have leeway how they enforce these measures. We decided it is necessary to compare these different enforcements to then push our own institutions towards the least strict execution.

Insourcing and Outsourcing

In this discussion, we focused primarily on mobilising specific demands i.e. to shut down the Warwick University-owned UniTemps. Important to note that agency workers don’t have the same rights as other directly-employed workers (whilst doing the same job).

For example, they don’t have access to University ordinances, can’t have time off in emergencies and can’t apply for flexible working patterns.

Quite a few recent developments in this field that are important to note, such as the serial ‘abusers’ of agency workers such as the Universities of Leicester and Surrey.

Opportunities to rely on casual workers maximised of course by shift towards private provision heralded by the Green Paper and the attempts to rely less on in-house academic support staff. See the recent dispute around University of Manchester’s IT provision. Warwick and TeachHigher obvious a worrying indicator of the direction of travel for the employment of academic staff.

At Leicester they have set up an ‘International Year One’ programme to be run by a private company, Study Group, as a form of in-sessional English for Academics Purposes training. Study Group also present at the University of Leeds. This primarily motivated by chasing the Chinese Yuan in a difficult UK funding environment. At Canadian universities new private providers introducing non-union clauses as part of terms and conditions. Also use of PEARL linguistics to provide community interpretation services at Brighton University.

Discussion as regards strategy in the group focussed on the demand—pressing for directly employing staff at Higher Education Institutions, to avoid a two-tier workforce. Also, one must recognise agency workers, alongside their inferior terms and conditions, lack an academic, campus voice.

In this regard, any campaign has to work with support staff in the spirit of the SOAS Justice for Cleaners campaign and the work of IGWB. In terms of focus, it was considered best to focus on UniTemps, to aim to make it a TeachHigher ‘success’ mark 2!

It was also highlighted how we should avoid arguments that revolve around subjective notions of ‘quality’, playing agency staff off against agency staff. Avoid divide and rule. Direct employment would objectively allow agency staff to perform an even better job.

As for next steps, we need to support groups such as IWGB and Corporate Watch as well as get UCU involved for advice. We need to build on local campaigns, too.

National Pay Frameworks and Terms & Conditions

This session focussed on pragmatic questions of how and where to target efforts given the current legal status of the casualised workforce. In discussing our broad demands for fair frameworks, this group had a clear eye on the difficult field ahead. The annotations we contributed focussed on pay frameworks, and the other myriad connected ways in which we are hampered in our jobs by lack of recognised labour rights. Casual staff must be afforded the same rights as permanent staff when doing the same work. We must fight for this with a practical awareness of the powers of our unions and of FACE. And we must do it with a weather eye on the coming storm of the TEF.

We began with some hard truths: the legal support for workers on casual contracts is scant. Without a statutory framework in place there is a risk in taking any case, lest it fail and set a precedent that hamstrings all future endeavours. In demanding better pay and work conditions, we need to be ready to pursue other avenues.

The strongest mechanism currently in place, it was suggested, is the UCU. Christina Paine provided the room with a very useful overview of the means at our disposal to petition the NEC, and to build on the work of the Anti-casualisation Committee. Whether our aims are local or national, getting casualised workers into the union and having them properly heard is key for this kind of action.

The point was also raised to general approval – and with a sense that it would be well to return to this idea at a later date – that FACE could become a known force offering support for casualised workers who find themselves trapped without recourse. Bringing things to light and having a visible wider support network can embarrass institutions and reassure exploited workers. This is a tool we can use.
What demands, then, serve as a rallying cry to get academics working collectively on pay issues?

A key point that emerged was a need to broaden the scope of our original remit. Pay frameworks alone are not enough. There are so many problems faced by casualised workers tied to our lack of official recognition in our departments. Email accounts are suspended between terms. Library memberships are revoked. Sometimes we are not even able to gain physical access to the buildings in which we teach.

Opacity in our contracts was a recurring theme underlying the pay question. Academics on casual contracts often do not know for what activities or hours they will be paid. Others are misled about their rights to longer-term contracts. Some are never issued written contracts at all. Job advertisements, contracting rules, payroll systems, and job titles are shrouded in mystery. As we work towards minimum standards for our contracts, it became clear that it’s difficult to overestimate the dearth of frameworks of any kind currently in place.

However, the point was raised and well supported that we do not need to reinvent the wheel. The basic rights for which we are asking are already mostly in place for permanent staff in our institutions. What we need, then, are not new processes. We need what already exists to be extended to casual staff.

We dwelt upon the importance of this. In framing our demands, we should be aware of the risks of entrenching the ‘casualised worker’s contract’ in the books. In seeking clarity and fair play, there is a risk of allowing university management to divide and conquer by latching onto the idea of casualised labour as an official workforce category, never to be displaced. We discussed the framing of our demands as an extension of existing frameworks to all of us in higher education.

Though some of the main conclusions to which we came were fed back at the plenary discussion, others are worth returning to for further discussion and debate. The outcomes of this session in broad terms:

– Payment frameworks and other rights negotiated by unions must be extended to casualised staff.

– We need transparency in hiring processes and contracting, including mandatory issuing of a clear written contract in a timely manner.

– There is power in having a union rep working for casualised workers. Facilities time for such a rep should be negotiable in a fair and practical way taking into account the nature of casualized hours.

Finally, we need to discuss the TEF. There was not time in this group session to give it the attention it deserved, but further discussion of our pay and employment rights in light of the Green Paper is a key priority. The changes it presages will only make things harder, and will once again disproportionately discriminate against us on the grounds of race, gender, class, and nationality.

Doctoral Researchers—Students or Workers?

This session discussed doctoral labour: all the work that doctoral researchers conduct (our research, organising conferences, “professional development”) which at present takes place outside an employment relationship. All this is work, currently obfuscated by our status as students, and the aim of the session was to formulate a demand in response to this. Discussion centred around whether there is anything to lose by moving from a studentship model to employment and how such a large-scale demand relates to more local and concrete movement-building.

The discussion started off with discussion of a few of the available alternatives to student status in the UK and abroad. In Sweden, for instance, doctoral candidates have a one year “studentship” before being upgraded to research employees from the second year with full employment benefits. Apprenticeships were mentioned as a model separating training and work, but it didn’t seem like this kind of separation would be possible for doctoral researchers and, after all, other employees get trained on the job.

A few consequences of moving to employment overnight don’t seem that desirable: paying tax on income rather than an untaxed scholarship, losing student concessions on transport and council tax, and the harsher visa conditions attached to work visas opposed to those for students. These show how this demand connects with others—accessible transport for all or the end of a racist and classist visa regime.

Funding was a central issue. Would employment status be the end of self-funded PhDs? But many people are excluded by the current system: people who can’t afford to conduct research, whether self-funded or with a scholarship below the living wage, and to demand employment conditions would make it possible for them to do research. Would there be fewer positions available if researchers were paid a decent wage? This looks a lot like an argument that a minimum wage cuts jobs. Again, this shows how the demand connects to broader issues—it has to include a demand not to cut provisioning of research. It was pointed out that this isn’t so unrealistic, because universities need the labour which doctoral researchers do.

There were some differences of opinion regarding how to spell out the connection with broader demands, especially whether we want to specify how employment status should be funded. At the very least, the demand needs to be that universities back up research proposals they accept with decent remuneration.

We also talked about where we might address this demand, and how we would achieve it. If we’re workers not students, we’d need to collectivise with the UCU instead of student unions. This has the benefit of putting us in a closer relationship with other workers in universities and would be a platform for posing a national demand.

Final session

In the final session of a long day, all the conference attendees got together in the lecture theatre, in order to do two things. Firstly to hear reports from each workshop session group about their discussions, and secondly to discuss and agree FACE’s demands, which were to be the outcome of the conference.

The workshop sessions had two, related goals. First to discuss the issues they raised in as wide a sense as possible and appropriate, second to formulate, where necessary, amendments or additions to the existing list of demands that had been drawn up by FACE members following discussions in the weeks preceding the conference. Each group was to bring forward any amendments they might propose to the final session, where they would be discussed and voted.

Most of the demands were agreed un-amended, or only with minor changes, and one existing demand was, for the time being at least, removed from the list. Some changes were to clarify meaning, or as in the final sentence added to the final demand, to propose concrete ways in which more generalised aims might be achieved. The final list of demands as agreed by the conference is here.

There was some discussion, and wide agreement, of the need to also think about two issues that had not so far been specifically raised in FACE’s list of demands. These are the insidious consequences of the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework, and its effect on casualised staff, and the gendered nature of the division of labour in universities. Attendees agreed that one feature of work in academia is the way in which different tasks are gendered in different ways, and in being gendered they are sorted into a hierarchy of value. Thus, pastoral care of students is often pushed onto female members of staff, and seen as less valuable. While this is a problem that is bigger than casualisation, it intersects in particular ways with the precarious nature of casual employment – which is itself gendered. For both this issue and the TEF, working groups were agreed to draw up proposed demands around these subjects to be discussed and agreed in future.

One demand which had previously been drawn up was abandoned, pending revision and further discussion. This was the argument that doctoral students should be treated as employees and paid as such. While there was widespread support for the idea that doctoral study should not require paid work outside of academia to finance it, there was disagreement over whether employment – rather than a system of liveable grants – was the best way to achieve this. Several attendees also pointed out the problems employee status would pose for non-EU students attempting to get visas (and indeed all students having to pay council tax, and so on).

The seven demands finally agreed by the conference are designed to move beyond the meta-demand – end casualisation – to a set of concrete steps designed to achieve this in the here and now. They are envisaged as a set of broad principles designed to unite casual workers across the sector, a programme with which hundreds of local campaigns across the country can align themselves, and a starting point for discussion and debate, as well as action and change!

7 Demands for Casualised University Workers

This is the text of seven key demands agreed at our 2nd National Conference, held at University College London on 21 November 2015. We continue to work on them, and welcome further input – come along to our next organising meeting, or contact us via email, Twitter or Facebook to get involved.

An end to 9-month and other contracts that don’t pay us outside of term time

We are people, not machines! We still need to feed ourselves, pay our rent and raise our families over the summer. We do not all have families or partners to financially support us whilst we pursue work in academia as a hobby. Moreover, we use vacation periods to undertake research and publications that our employers directly benefit from when they contract us to teach. We refuse to do this work for free.

A cap on the percentage of teaching done by casualised staff at every institution

University departments are increasingly structured around the assumption that a large portion of teaching will be done by hourly paid and short-term staff who can be hired at the last minute, and disposed of just as quickly according to the demands of the ‘market’. We all know the damage this does not only to the lives of these teachers and the quality of the education they are able to provide, but also to the conditions of permanent staff who have to take on a far greater proportion of the administrative and pastoral care within their departments. This is also a feature of an intensifying two-tier system of higher education, whereby Russell Group universities may advertise the possibility of being taught by ‘top professors’ as a selling point, while working-class students at post-’92s will suffer from a high turnover of especially overworked and underpaid teaching staff. Ultimately, we want an end to all casualistion in the sector, but as a first step a demand to cap the percentage of casualised teaching will both make visible the extent to which departments currently rely upon it, and insist upon more consistency in conditions across institutions.

Payment for all hours worked on an equal basis

Those in casual academic positions often work far in excess of their contracted hours, meaning that they end up doing a lot of work effectively for free. This is due to a range of factors: the often irregular nature of teaching work, especially the need to respond to students out of hours; outdated or inaccurate mechanisms for calculating hours; the inclusion of a huge number of tasks either in unrealistic “multipliers” or bundled together with payment worked out for contact teaching hours alone; the pressure put on junior staff to take on extra work as a part of unpaid “training”; and even pressure put on PhD students to do teaching work for their supervisors for free. These unfair and unlawful practices need to stop, and they should be replaced with a simple principle: payment for all hours worked, calculated through a fair and transparent mechanism based on actual job requirements and on an equal basis with permanent staff. Hourly pay rates should be consistent across all the tasks that go into casual teaching work, rather than differentiating between different aspects like contact time, marking, office hours, etc. All are part of the same job and should be recognised as such.

Shut down UniTemps like we shut down TeachHigher!

In the face of criticism from both unions and the press, Warwick University rapidly backpedalled on TeachHigher and, before getting rid of it altogether, claimed that they had no intention to ‘outsource’ academic staff. Yet Warwick University-owned UniTemps, an agency for cleaning, catering and security staff across hundreds of UK universities, is already employing academic staff in some institutions including the universities of Leicester and Surrey. Insourcing and outsourcing function as direct attacks on unions, workers’ rights and the public university. In practice, outsourced and agency staff are frequently denied access to sick pay, holiday pay and compassionate leave. Targeting UniTemps is our next step to ensure that all university workers are directly employed. It also represents the possibility of making links with other university workers, cleaners, caterers and security staff who have as much right to secure working conditions as academics.

National pay frameworks, currently negotiated between the UCU and employers, should also apply
to hourly pay rates

In theory, even casualised workers should be covered by the union-negotiated national pay frameworks, but in practice the hourly wage and what it is expected to cover varies not only between universities but even between departments. University employers should be forced to make transparent how they calculate the hourly rate, and how this meets criteria established by national framework agreements. The UCU should ensure that casualised workers benefit from these hard-won union gains as much as permanent academics, and that employers fully implement the framework agreements at all levels of staffing.

Universities must address the racism and racist practices that lead to the casualisation of black staff and People of Colour in universities

British higher education is institutionally racist, a fact which is reflected in the racial stratification of employment where black people and People of Colour (PoC), especially women of colour, are less likely to be promoted to professorships than their white colleagues, are more likely to be on casual contracts and are most likely some of the most precarious workers in HE — working as cleaners, maintenance staff and in catering. Black and PoC academics find themselves with fewer or no job opportunities, a lack of support for professional and career development, are over-scrutinised compared to their white colleagues and receive lower pay than white colleagues — in some cases, thousands of pounds less. There are black and PoC staff who have challenged this racism and have been forced out of their institutions. British universities must cease these colonial practices and stop privileging whiteness within hiring practices and the educational structure within institutions.

Universities must not be complicit in the deportation and harassment of non-EU university workers, and provide security of work and residency for non-EU staff

Universities are increasingly becoming sites of border enforcement. Where non-EU staff are on casualised contracts, it is extremely difficult for them to be shortlisted for positions and even gain working visas, despite offers of em­ployment. Non-EU scholars are increasingly denied visas to attend academic conferences and work on collaborative projects with their British counterparts. There are several cases where non-EU workers in HE who speak out against racism or have actively organised in their workplace have had their migration status used to threaten and silence them. For example, in 2009 when SOAS cleaners were organising to improve their working conditions, university man­agement allowed the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA)/UK Visas and Immigration on campus to conduct immigration checks on cleaning staff, resulting in the detention and deportation of nine staff.  Students are also policed and surveilled in the name of Prevent legislation, which places a burden especially on Muslim students, at whom it is most targeted, and also on staff who are forced to implement it. Universities must provide certainty of employment for non-EU workers and ensure that they are able to obtain the visas they require and ensure that casual workers are not deported when their working terms change or come to an end. And universities must not be complicit in the de­portation of staff, neither should university staff be required to enforce border regimes and the threat of deportation should not become a way of victimising activists or disciplining non-EU staff or students. Towards that end, universities will take no disciplinary action against staff for failure to implement related policies.

Image credit: ‘Cubicus, Universiteit Twente’, by Eenoog.

Developing demands around doctoral work

In the lead-up to our conference this Saturday, we’ve been discussing demands that could help give our movement form and direction. We previously published a number of these for discussion and at the conference we will be debating, refining and deciding them. To add this this list, we’re also thinking about the research work that doctoral students carry out. Below is a proposal of a demand we might organise around – it will be the basis for discussion in the “Doctoral Researchers – Students or Workers?” session on Saturday, so come along with your ideas! And do take a look at the other preliminary demands here.

Doctoral students should be recognised as workers, with workers’ rights and pay

Not just the teaching, but the research that doctoral students carry out is work too. Our departments and our institutions benefit from our research work, but we are not treated as employees. We have no workplace rights, no clear terms and conditions, and many of us are expected to self-fund – as if a PhD was a 3 year unpaid internship. PhDs should not only be treated as students but also recognised officially as employees. That means decent pay, hours and employment contracts, and trade union rights.

Photo: Tongji University Library, by Matthias Ripp