Category Archives: Anti-Casualisation Campaign

Two strike Ballots this Autumn: one on USS pensions; One on casualisation, pay, inequality & workloads

As you now know, UCU’s annual congress voted to prepare for another round of strike action to defend our pensions while also launching a new national campaign to secure a fair deal from both pre- and post-92 employers on pay, workload, equality, and job security. UCU’s Higher Education Committee then decided on 28 June to run both strike ballots at the same time, rather than consecutively.

 

These ballots will run from 9 September to 30 October. Members in branches where UCU has registered a dispute over USS will receive two ballot papers – one for pay, workload, equality and job security and one for USS. Members in other and post-92 branches will receive one ballot paper.

 

New UCU General Secretary-elect Jo Grady explains it like this:

“Those of us who went on strike over USS last year were motivated by a host of factors. Many members who are not even in USS joined us on the picket lines because they wanted to express their solidarity with us and send a signal to our employers that staff deserve better, not just in their pension benefits but in other areas, too. UCU has listened to those members and decided that nobody should be left behind. By balloting simultaneously, we can press employers to reach agreements that protect all of us.”

 

The rest of this post explains the strategies, demands, and rationale for both votes as they currently stand.

Our demands for USS
For USS, our demands are simple. USS has lost its members’ trust and rejected some of the Joint Expert Panel’s most important proposals. If implemented now, those proposals would lead to a contribution rate no higher than 26%, as it was before the 2017 valuation.

We want employers to use their considerable influence over the scheme to hold USS’s managers to account. If they refuse to do so, we want them to meet the full cost of contribution increases above the rate of 26%, rather than forcing some of them on to members.

A comprehensive deal for university staff on pay, equality, workload, and job security
At the same time, we want employers to move towards a sustainable, equitable business model that puts staff first. Our demands are laid out in the campus unions’ annual claim for 2019-20. These include:

  • reducing the number of zero-hours and hourly paid positions
  • working to close the gender and ethnicity pay gaps
  • limiting unsafe, excessive workloads
  • increasing pay by 3% plus RPI.

These are *all* things on which we represent our members, but we have been faced by remarkable intransigence from the employers at national negotiating level for years. If we don’t give our negotiators the leverage they need to improve our lot there is no indication this situation will change.

 

Practical questions
Once again, employers are leaving us with no resort other than a strike, even if it stops us all from doing the valuable work we entered this sector to do. But we should remember how quickly they came to the negotiating table once last year’s USS strike started. The more members take part in the ballot, the sooner employers will make us a serious offer.

UCU has the capacity to manage two campaigns. The fact that we are balloting simultaneously does not mean that we need to take twice as much action as we did for USS. After the ballots close, we have a six-month window within which to schedule any strikes, so we can be flexible in terms of the timing and amount of action we take.

The union will support branches in getting the vote out and preparing for action. I am pleased to announce that UCU’s National Executive Committee recently approved a trial expansion of the strike fund, so that members earning less than £30,000, and/or on fractional and hourly paid contracts, will be able to apply for more days of reimbursement than they could in the past. When you decide to go on strike, your action will be properly supported.’

I will be touring branches in September and October to meet members and discuss both campaigns. I will circulate dates and locations and provide further information about the ballots in due course. Until then, please continue to contact me with any questions you have.

Anti-casualisation campaign update

The anti-casualisation working group held an open meeting on Tuesday 4th June to work on an “Anti-Casualisation Manifesto” as a base document to inform our campaign and future negotiations with the University management. This manifesto is based on the premise that secure employment is that which guarantees continuity of gainful employment (e.g. ongoing contracts with consistent work and payment). 

We’re aware, based on our own research and many examples of members seeking support through case-work, that Cardiff University uses contracts which do not fit this description in a wide variety of situations in which this would not be necessary, with dramatic and damaging consequences to staff. 

We have initiated conversations with University management about these issues and we will soon submit a claim to demand the University to engage with UCU in reviewing the use of fixed-term and atypical contracts across the University and work towards providing secure working conditions to *all* staff.       

We will be presenting results from our precarity survey and discussing our manifesto and our claim to the University at our General Meeting next Wednesday, as well as sharing more widely, and we would value the input from all Cardiff UCU members!

Cardiff UCU anti-casualisation meeting: all welcome!

The Cardiff UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee invites you to an open meeting about the long-term strategy of the group. This meeting is open to everyone who is interested in improving working conditions at Cardiff University (whether you’re a UCU member of not). The outcome of the meeting will be to create a manifesto which will guide the Cardiff UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee’s future activities and strategy. It will also be an opportunity to learn about our work so far and our plans for the future.
We will discuss the following topics

  • Professional services staff on fixed-term contracts
  • Academic staff on fixed term contracts
  • Hourly paid teaching staff
  • Postgraduate tutors and demonstrators
  • International staff on casual contracts
  • Impacts of casualization on staff on open-ended contracts

Date & venue: Tuesday 4th June 2019, 3pm-5pm, Glamorgan Building, Committee Room 1

Please feel free to just come to parts of the meeting if you can’t make the whole meeting!

Progress in anti-casualisation negotiations for postgraduate tutors

The Cardiff UCU branch anti-casualisation working group are very pleased to report progress in our campaign for the work of post-graduate students who teach/demonstrate to be recognised as employment. The university’s management have agreed to set up a working group to explore the status of postgraduate researchers, tutors and demonstrators, and to explore the options that may be available in order to move towards a more clearly defined framework of employment.

This working group will allow close collaboration between UCU, our sister unions, the Students’ Union, and senior University management. It’s Cardiff UCU’s sincere hope that the work of this group will enable us to move towards contracted-employee status for this group. In the meantime, please read this fantastic resource that Cardiff Student Union’s Jake Smith (Vice-President Postgrad) has created to ensure that PGRs who teach are aware of their rights. Please pass it on to the students who teach on your modules, and check if there are any areas where your department does not meet the Code of Practice requirements. You can also read a more general guide to supporting PGRs.

Anti-casualisation update and petition

  • Our Anti-casualisation working group is still in discussions with the University over a range of issues including contracts and terminology around those employed on non-permanent contracts and the employee/contractual status of postgrad students who do teaching/demonstrating work. We hope to be able to share more concrete info about these talks soon.
  • In the meantime, to get an idea of what other branches across the country are asking for to improve the working lives of casualised colleagues, take a look at this excellent claim now formally submitted by Newcastle UCU.
  • Colleagues at Leicester UCU need your support on a petition against Leicester Uni employing teaching fellows on non-academic contracts. The issues are discussed, and the petition can be signed, here.

Re-ballot on the Pay, Casualisation, & Equality Dispute

At a special HE sector conference on pay last month, UCU delegates agreed to re-ballot higher education members nationally for industrial action on the union’s claim around pay, equality and following the recent result of the first ballot. Conference decided that the new ballot would involve all branches, but this time on an aggregate basis (all results counted together, rather than branch-by-branch).

It has now been agreed that the new ballot will open on Monday 14 January 2019 and will close on Friday 22 February 2019. HEC also agreed that the same two questions posed in the recent disaggregate ballot will be asked in the new year aggregate ballot; do members support strike action and do members support action short of a strike up to and including a marking boycott. HEC delegated the formulation of the industrial action plan, which will include sustained strike action and Action Short of a Strike. More info can be found on the national UCU website.

Because of the local threats around redundancies we face, members in Cardiff will now be balloted twice in the New Year: once on the local issue of job losses, and once on the national issues of pay, casualization, and equality.

The Cardiff UCU local Dispute Committee will aim to co-ordinate our own strategies as much as possible with those of this on-going national dispute.

Please complete and share our survey about casualisation and precarious work!

The UCU anti-casualisation group has been collecting testimonies and anecdotal evidence on precarious work across the University and have come across many worrying practices, with evidence of some staff kept in precarious contracts for as long as 20 years and not being properly recognized for the work they routinely carry on. Within Cardiff UCU members (excluding postgraduates and retired members), 32.3% are on non-secure contracts, including (nearly) zero-hour contracts. Casual staff are likely to be under represented in our membership and HESA figures point to 48.6% of academic staff in Cardiff University being on fixed-term or atypical contracts in 2016/17, with atypical contracts accounting for more than half of this figure. Continue reading

Cardiff UCU anti-casualisation working group

The Anti-casualisation working group is a sub-group of the UCU executive committee, dealing specifically with issues around precarious work across the university. Its current main priority is to secure employee status for postgraduate tutors at Cardiff so they can enjoy the same employment rights as other staff.

They are currently in the process of meeting with the University to convince them that employment rights for postgraduate workers are a positive step forward for all parties, as has been the case with many other universities across the UK. This is a very important campaign, not least because while postgraduate tutors are not recognised as employees, the union cannot represent them in negotiations to fight for better and more secure working conditions.

We will also be surveying all employees at Cardiff about issues relating to precarity and job security – keep an eye out for these, and please fill it in when it hits your in-box.

If you’d like to know more about the issues facing precarious workers at Cardiff then check out this recent blog post by branch member Rowan Campbell, or watch this YouTube video of Rowan talking about these problems.

To get involved with the Anti-casualisation group, please email Renata Medeiros (medeirosmirrarj@cardiff.ac.uk) or Rowan Campbell (campbellrh@cardiff.ac.uk).