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range of factors: the often irregular nature of teaching work, especially the need to respond to students out of hours; outdated or inaccurate mechanisms for calculating hours; the inclusion of a huge number of tasks either in unrealistic “multipliers” or bundled together with payment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.

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Postgraduate Bloc called for the National Demo, Nov 4th, London.

This November, thousands of students will be marching from the University of London Union to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The demo was called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts in response to the announcement that a Tory government would drive through a series of regressive attacks on education, including the removal of maintenance grants for the poorest students. The demo, which will also pass through parliament square to the Home office, aims to build on the 10,000 strong event last year.

The NCAFC’s postgraduate caucus has called a bloc, supported by FACE and various UCU branches. We would like to encourage all supporters of FACE to attend the demonstration and join us on the Postgraduate bloc.

In particular we welcome the caucus’s demands that the REF and Teaching Excellence Framework be scrapped, as well as the call for fair pay for all hours worked by postgraduate teachers. This stands in line with the demands that we are currently developing and plan to discuss and finalise in our November Conference.

You can see the full list of demands and a link to the facebook event for the bloc below. FACE will also be providing details for the event- as well as updates on our much anticipated shiny new banner.

We think that joining in with student calls for an end to the application of neoliberal economics to education is an important front on which to fight against the customer service paradigm, that forms the basis for the exploitation of casualised staff. Show your solidarity, join the bloc!

NCAFC DEMO: FREE EDUCATION & LIVING GRANTS FOR ALL: NO BARRIERS // NO BORDERS // NO BUSINESS!
https://www.facebook.com/events/1449378505377525/

We’ve had Enough! A call for a Postgraduate bloc on the National Demo, Nov 4th

https://www.facebook.com/events/1627495014141931/

The central demands of the demonstration – free education and universal living grants – are just as powerful in a postgraduate context. Education does not stop being a public good when you finish an undergraduate degree and living costs should not be a determinant of access. Nor should borders. Moreover, as postgraduates very often we are on the sharp edge of the marketisation of education. Research postgrads are often caught between being neither fully students or staff, and are very often exploited for their position at the bottom of career ladder. The fight against the neoliberal university is our fight too.

That’s why we’re calling on Postgraduate students from across the UK to join us, and take that fight to the government, on the 4th of November.

We demand:

  • FREE EDUCATION for postgraduates: abolish all course fees for all students, home and international, for all levels of study.
  • LIVING GRANTS for all Postgraduate students: All students need financial security. Living costs should not determine access.
  • SCRAP the REF and the planned TEACHING EXCELLENCE FRAMEWORK. No more neoliberal metrics to discipline workers and control education for the interests of business.
  • Better conditions for POSTGRADUATE TEACHERS. Abolish stipends that include teaching hours and ensure fair pay for ALL hours worked.

FACE- Open meeting report, 26th September.

Last weekend a group of FACE activists met up in Manchester, following our last meeting in Birmingham. Here’s a quick summary of what was discussed:

What we talked about

On 26th September, delegates from Sussex, Manchester, Warwick, Leeds, MMU and several London universities met at the University of Manchester for the latest FACE meeting. Also in attendance were some student activists, from the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts and a regional coordinate for Unite Community. The meeting began with a discussion of local issues, as well as a catch up from the various areas represented.  There was feedback on the cross-union dispute at Manchester, where out-sourcing and restructure is presenting a growing threat to casualised staff. There was also some interesting feedback from the various changes at MMU, and how casualization works in that institution. Finally we discussed our recently published plan for a set of national demands, as well as the autumn conference in November.

 What we decided

There was a lot of promising opportunities for building local links in the area, which is something delegates present plan to work on in the coming months. Contact FACE if this is something you’d like to help build.

The majority of the discussion was dedicated to the idea of creating a set of national demands to unify our various local campaigns in such a way that reflects the larger structural issue facing us.  We discussed the set of provisional demands, published on the blog. None of the demands were substantially challenged, though various edits in phrasing were proposed, such as the importance that a cap on the number of casualised jobs would mean the conversion and creation of permanent positions- not an increased workload for already existing staff. There was also a discussion of how casualisation impacts in particular ways on certain portions of the workforce. The relationship between casual contracts, campaigning and visa conditions was an important point of consideration, as well as the way that race and gender relates to casual conditions. A working group was set up to put forward a new proposal to reflect these issues.

Finally we discussed the shape of the conference. It was decided that we needed to dedicate some of the day to skill sharing and example of effective local strategies, in order to empower local groups and new delegates. But, it was also agreed that the latter half of the day should be dedicated to formalising these national demands through a democratic decision making process. Again, contact FACE with any comments/suggestions. The date of the conference was agreed for Saturday, 21st of November.

As decided in July, meetings from now on will be regular (monthly for the moment) but since the next meeting will be the last one before the conference, it will be held at UCL, in London where the majority of the conference organising will take place. If you have any questions about the meetings, then get in touch.

Campaigning

The Tory Party Conference is coming to Manchester this week. The Trade Union Congress has called for a demonstration, specifically targeted at this government’s erosion of worker’s rights, and more specifically their anti-trade union bill. The demo will be at 12 p.m. on Sunday 4th of October. University of Manchester UCU will be marching in the Student bloc, along with some FACE activists and other campus unions. Anyone in the area is very welcome to join at defend the right to strike in Higher Education!

See you at our next organising meeting at University College London; 12 p.m. on the 24th October, room TBC! 

Also, for recent news on casualisation, see this article in the THE, written by a FACE activist.

Developing some demands ‘in and against’ the neoliberal university

In FACE we have been discussing what a national strategy for higher education anti-casualisation struggles might look like. At the moment there are a number of campaigns and organising projects springing up at universities in the UK, which have an overarching meta-demand (treat us the same as permanent staff, end casualisation) and also very important micro-demands (things like demanding office space for hourly-paid tutors, or getting paid for added extras like invigilation and marking). But what we often lack is more intermediate/transitional demands (call them what you will), which can offer links in the chain to move towards a bigger but also more transformative anti-casualisation movement.

At the assembly against casualisation held at Warwick University in June this year, we discussed how one of the reasons the fight against TeachHigher ignited so much energy was that it provided us with something to target in a very immediate, concrete way, while also symbolising and encapsulating wider processes of casualisation and neoliberalisation that affect universities nationwide. We started to throw around ideas for some other similar targets/demands  demands that link the local with the national and immediate problems with wider political processes. And demands that reject the logic of the privatised university rather than re-inscribing it. We are not saying “we want a fair share of the £9,000” or “students paying this much money deserve more value for their cash”. Instead, we want better conditions for lecturers and better education for students so that together we can break down the consumer/service-provider relationship and fight for universities that encourage critical thinking as a tool for social change.

Below is a very preliminary list of demands that we’ve come up with. We’re going to continue this conversation with as large a group of activists as possible at the next FACE conference in London on 14 November 2015. In the run-up to this we invite you to send us your demands – what issues are most pressing to you as university workers at the moment? And how would you best formulate a demand to change that situation, a demand around which all of us can struggle collectively across our institutions?

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 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

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.

Shut down UniTemps just 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. Targeting UniTemps could be an effective next step in opposing not just casualisation, but the introduction of internal markets within universities and profit-making franchises across the sector. 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 make more of an effort to 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.

Photo: Tongji University Library, by Matthias Ripp