The latest on TeachHigher: Breaking News!

A statement from the Warwick UCU committee and the Warwick Hourly-Paid Working Group – copied from the No To Casualisation Warwick blog

Are you up for the demo on Friday 19 June?
(12pm at Library Road)

Can you spare an hour to make a poster/banner?
(Wednesday 17 June from 4-7pm)

Or distribute flyers?
(Wednesday 3 June at 12pm at Library entrance)

National Support for Warwick UCU’s Campaign against TeachHigher

Last weekend, UCU Congress (the body which decides UCU policy for the whole of the UK) voted to campaign against TeachHigher – see motion 66A.1 here. In a letter to Nigel Thrift, Michael MacNeil, National Head of Bargaining and Negotiations, calls it “an issue of national importance for the whole union”. UCU have reported Warwick’s story here and here.

Staff and Student Demonstration against Casualisation and TeachHigher

Please support the demonstration on Friday 19 Junefurther details here. Alongside the usual elements (a march and a rally), there’ll be lots of creative activities highlighting the human cost of casual contracts – watch out for “Sticky Floor”, “Twins” and “The Alternative Campus Guide”. UCU branches from all over the country are coming as are staff from UCU Head Office.

History and Film and TV Studies join English in voting not to use TeachHigher

Two more departments have exercised their democratic right and voted to reject TeachHigher at a departmental meeting. Please try to do the same in your own department. Contact the committee via administrator@warwickucu.org.uk if you need help with this.

Boycott of pilot by Sociology tutors

22 tutors in the Sociology department emailed Professor Solomos (Head of Department) and Jackie Smith (Director of Administration for Sociology, PAIS and Philosophy) on 27 May saying they won’t apply for sessional work via TeachHigher next academic year. Read the email in full here. About a third of all teaching in Sociology is done by sessional tutors.

Concerns expressed by 68 members of staff in PAIS

68 members of staff have written a series of emails to Professor Chris Hughes (Head of Department) and Jackie Smith (Director of Administration) outlining their concerns. The group includes people from all ranks of the academic ladder showing this is an issue affecting all of us. Approximately 53% of all UG teaching in PAIS is done by sessional tutors, 30% by teaching fellows on temporary contracts, and 17% by permanent staff members.

Student Union overwhelmingly rejects TeachHigher despite  management reassurances

The SU invited management to an Open Meeting about TeachHigher on 14 May. You can hear an audio recording here. The students were not reassured. A week later, they voted overwhelmingly to “reject TeachHigher and demand in its place a universal contract system that values and not exploits hourly-paid teachers”. Read the full motion and result here.

Why are staff and students from all over the country coming together to oppose TeachHigher?

  1. There is still a lack of clarity about TeachHigher. The website says it’s “an internal academic recruitment and administration services” and that the pilot will involve seven departments (Sociology, Philosophy, Politics and International Studies, Chemistry, Mathematics, the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the Centre for Lifelong Learning). This leaves unanswered important questions about its reporting structures, its business model and its longer-term aims. Similarly, the relationship between TeachHigher and Warwick Employment Group, a University of Warwick subsidiary, remains opaque. TeachHigher used to be listed as the sixth brand on WEG’s webpage, alongside Unitemps and jobs.ac.uk – now there’s just an awkward gap in the bottom right-hand corner. Check it out here. Given how much things keep changing, without any explanation, who could blame us for being sceptical?
  2. UCU and the Hourly-paid Working Group have not been consulted at any point.
  3. The original terms and conditions were deeply concerning because the “candidate” could be dismissed at any time without reason. We know nothing about the revised terms and conditions because we have been excluded from the drafting process. We believe they will still offer a contract for services, denying hourly-paid staff basic employment rights.
  4. Warwick already has one of the highest casualisation rates in the whole sector and TeachHigher will do nothing to ameliorate this dubious distinction. Instead, it will almost certainly make the situation worse in the next five to ten years.
  5. TeachHigher makes it possible for HR personnel with no academic training or specialist expertise to recruit teachers and researchers. Potentially, under the new scheme, HR could bypass departmental preferences and take full control of the hiring process and the staffing of modules. This isn’t going to happen this year or next, but who’s to say it won’t happen further down the line?
  6. Similarly, TeachHigher makes it easier for Warwick central management to recruit ever larger numbers of hourly-paid and casualised staff to teach modules and do piecemeal research, while continuing to reduce the number of secure, open-ended positions. Again, this isn’t going to happen immediately, but it’s a real concern for the future.

What’s the alternative?

  1. Halt the pilot; engage in meaningful discussion with UCU and other groups most affected;
  2. Place hourly-paid staff on fractional contracts that give them the same pay, conditions and rights as those on open-ended contracts.
Produced by the Warwick UCU committee and the Hourly-Paid Working Group.
29 May 2015

 

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Model motion for national demonstration against TeachHigher

Anti-casualisation activists at Warwick have published the following model motion on their blog (No To Casualisation Warwick) – please propose it in your union branches to support the national demo against TeachHigher on 19 June and fund travel for delegations to attend it! The demo has already been backed by Warwick UCU and by a vote of UCU’s National Congress. See you there!


Branch notes:

  1. Post-secondary education is being fundamentally reorganised around the use of casual contracts. Up to one third of staff in HE and FE are on non-permanent contracts.
  2. Casual workers are paid significantly less, have no job security, and limited career development opportunities.
  3. Recent campaigns have won secure status or improved pay and conditions for casual workers. Examples include campaigns against ZHC at Edinburgh, and for better conditions for cleaners and fractional staff at SOAS.
  4. However, to avoid offering regular employment contracts, Warwick University is creating a new ‘internal academic recruitment and administration service’ – piloted at Warwick but with the intention of franchising at universities across the UK. TeachHigher will employ hourly paid staff on worse terms and conditions than they currently endure at Warwick

Branch believes:

  1. Casualisation is an attack on our basic employment rights, and is a central issue and needs to be addressed by every UCU branch.
  2. TeachHigher is a threat not just to Warwick staff but to everyone working at UK universities – both implicitly through setting a dangerous precedent, and explicitly through its plans for franchise.
  3. It is possible to reverse this trend towards casualisation.
  4. However, if outsourcing teaching to agencies is entrenched, it will institutionalise a two-tier academic workforce and permit further outsourcing of academic staff.

Branch resolves:

  1. To oppose TeachHigher and support the national demonstration against it, supported by Warwick UCU, on 19th June at 12 noon, Library Road, Warwick Campus Cv4 7AL.
  2. To organise a delegation of [your branch] members to attend and to donate £X towards travel costs to demo.

More info here.

Facebook event here.

Open Organising Meeting: 6pm Tuesday 26 May, KCL

Please join us at our next open organising meeting! There’s plenty to discuss, including the national demonstration against TeachHigher and “insourcing” at Warwick, organising our next major gathering, and more, so please come along – and let’s try and make sure as many campuses’ campaigns are represented as possible!

6pm Tuesday 26 May
Kings College London (room TBC)
Please invite friends and colleagues via Facebook

Apologies – this was previously posted incorrectly as 24 May. The meeting will take place on Tuesday 26 May.

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.

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: