Anti-Casualisation Claim

UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

UCU, UNISON AND UNITE

ANTI-CASUALISATION CLAIM

  1. Formal Heads of Claim

The persistent and structural use of insecure contracts in higher education has become a pressing

issue of contention between employers and employees over the last five years. March 2020 leaked

minutes from a meeting of the Russell Group suggested that member institutions, including the

University of Liverpool, ‘show leadership’ on the issue of casualisation in order to ‘avoid reputational

damage’. (1) HESA data for the most most recent publicly available academic year, 2019/20, shows

that 37% of all academic staff employed at the University of Liverpool have a fixed-term contract. (2)

For those of us with direct experience of insecure contracts in Higher Education, the detrimental

impact of precarious employment is an ever present feature of our work. Research has shown how

short-term teaching contracts mean that research and teaching staff work unpaid over periods of

unemployment during the summer months. UCU has found that on average hourly paid and

part-time teachers are doing 45% of their work without pay. (3) Precariously employed lecturers

have to take up positions at short notice, have little time to prepare for courses assigned to them,

and are given no extra time or remuneration for their preparation and office hours workloads. The

mobility and insecurity of workplace precarity has a disproportionate impact upon those academics,

overwhelmingly women, who have caring responsibilities, threatening to lock them into the least

recognised, remunerated and most insecure, teaching-only roles within the University. (4) Frequent

breaks in contract and changes in location disproportionately impact staff with caring

responsibilities, disability or migrant workers from ‘third countries’ not granted the ‘right to remain’.

Such conditions not only have an immediate, detrimental impact upon the quality of teaching,

  1. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/tackling-use-fixed-term-contracts-priority-russell-group

 

https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10760/RG_casualisation_meeting_minutes_March_2020/pdf/RGcasuali[1]sationmeetingminutesmarch202

 

  1. https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/staff/employment-conditions

 

  1. https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10336/Counting-the-costs-of-casualisation-in-higher-education-Jun-19/pdf/

 

ucu_casualisation_in_HE_survey_report_Jun19.pdf . p.4.

  1. See Theresa O’Keefe and Aline Courtois. ‘“Not One of the Family”: Gender and Precarious Work in the

Neoliberal University’. Gender, Work & Organization 26, no. 4 (2019), pp.463–79.but produce broader discontinuities in course offerings, syllabi, and one-on-one mentoring that

negatively affect the student experience.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on an employment model at the University that allows

fixed term contracts, particularly of teaching staff to expire during the summer with no guarantee

of renewal. While a substantial number of fixed term contracts that expired in summer 2020 were

renewed for 2020/21 this yearly churn is not a sustainable business model and all too often exploits

the most precarious. Those staff whose contracts are up for renewal all too often carry out huge

quantities of unpaid labour out of fear of not being rehired for the following year. A system that

recruits teaching staff based on yearly undergraduate recruitment numbers entrenches workplace

insecurity, casualisation and inequality while undermining students’ quality of learning.

Early and mid-career researchers have reported the damaging effect of short-term contracts upon

their capacity to deliver ‘research excellence’. The demands of short term employment, and the

requirement to move cities, institutions, or even countries at short notice has a detrimental impact

on researchers’ mental health and wellbeing, as it puts in jeopardy their ability to plan their future.

One Wellcome Trust report found that 36% of surveyed researchers were considering leaving the

sector within three years, fuelling worries of a ‘loss of talent’ due to ‘increased pressures, instabil[1]ity and inflexibility within current career pathways and promotion criteria’. (5) Despite the fact of

bringing considerable revenue to the university, researchers are forced to juggle the publication of

research findings with job applications and funding proposals, a situation that affects the quality of

both. (6) Often this work takes place unpaid and between contracts. The University’s own Research

in an Inclusive and Sustainable Environment (RISE) listening phase recently found that, in light of the

Covid-19 pandemic, there is ‘a real appetite, particularly from early career researchers, for

significant, structural changes to the research environment to facilitate more sustainable and

inclusive working practices’. (7) The situation over the last year has been demoralising,

particularly as the University is aware of it, and has the power to change it.

It is in the interests of the University to review its employment practices particularly in relation to

fixed term contracts for staff across all roles and grades. The University is the second largest

employer in the Liverpool City Region and should act as a model for fair employment, particularly

given its civic responsibility and the role it plays in underpinning the local economy.

  1. https://wellcome.org/reports/what-researchers-think-about-research-culture
  2. The Precarious Postdoc: Interdisciplinary Research and Casualised Labour in the Humanities and Social

Sciences

  1. University of Liverpool, Research in an Inclusive and Sustainable Environment, report of the listening

Phase(2020), https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/intranet/media/intranet/humanresources/academy/research/Working

with trade unions to address casualisation would send a strong message to staff, students

and the local community that the University’s claim that it ‘supports all staff and students in

maximising their potential to succeed’ is genuine.

  1. Statement of Intent

Our claim is for the University to commit to the following in a written public statement:

2.1. A joint review of the hourly paid and fixed-term contracts at the University

2.2. A joint review of supplier agreements issued by the University and by third parties

engaged with the University

2.3. Time-limited discussions regarding the issue of casualisation

2.4. A review of agreed role profiles for hourly paid and fixed-term employees across the University

2.5. The University to provide sufficient resources (people and funds) to achieve this objective in a

timely and consistent way

  1. Ending the Unjustified Use of Fixed Term

Contracts

In addition, the university should agree steps, including:

3.1. A commitment to indefinite contracts as the general form of employment at the University, with

clearly defined conversion targets and timetable;

3.1.1. The joint trade unions will work with management on the process of implementation.

3.2. The transferral of all hourly paid and fixed term employees onto indefinite (and/or fractional)

contracts with the exception of the following specific circumstances in which fixed term contracts

are permitted:

3.2.1. Cover for a temporary absence, such as maternity/adoption/paternity/shared parental leave,

sickness absence, bereavement and care leave, secondment, academic research and education

leave;

3.2.2. Recognised, time-limited training programmes (e.g. Graduate Teaching Assistantships);

3.2.3. Cover for unexpected, temporary, one-off peaks in demand where the contract will end when

the demand returns to normal levels. It is not permitted that such cover is repeated year-on-year

as is currently the case, as predictable increases in activity and recruitment should require indefinite

contractual arrangements;3.2.4. Where individuals specifically request to be placed onto, or remain on, a fixed term contract;

3.2.5. Following Ball vs University of Aberdeen (2008), time limited external funding is not in

itself a sufficient ground to refuse a permanent contract. (8)

3.3. Minimum length of 12 months to be introduced for all temporary contracts.

3.4. The elimination of the use of zero hours contracts at the university. All staff employed on zero

hours contracts will be transferred onto indefinite fractional arrangements with the exceptions

of the circumstances outlined in 3.2.1. – 3.2.5.

  1. Ending the Use of Supplier Agreements

This claim aims to prevent the use of supplier agreements for academic, academic support and

professional service work at the university. The joint trade unions are aware that the University

has issued supplier agreements to staff undertaking doctoral supervision for the online PhD in

Education. At a time when such employment practices are being regularly denounced and in

light of the recent Uber ruling, (9) this is a particularly retrograde step from the University and

should be revoked immediately. The University should agree steps to ensure:

4.1. An end to the contracting of academic, academic support and professional service work

through supplier agreements and other ‘freelance’ arrangements at the university;

4.1.1. All those who conduct such work are granted employee status at the university;

4.1.2. A review of supplier agreements issued both directly by the University and by third

parties the University engages.

  1. Regularising the Permanency Process

It is our intention that this agreement address the significant workload faced by HR employees and

joint trade union representatives when dealing with outstanding claims to permanency. To this end,

the University should agree steps to ensure:

5.1. All full or part time fixed-term positions to be reviewed after two years, and the contracts to be

made permanent at this point, unless their role meets the criteria set out in section 3.2.;

5.2. The automatic conversion to indefinite contracts for all those who have been working

at the university for four years on a continuous basis.

  1. Fixed term contracts and UCU sponsored employment tribunal case RISE_Report_Final.pdf, p.3.
  2. Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents) – Press Summary6. Tackling Researcher Insecurity

Our claim is to ensure security and career progression for all Research Associates and Assistants

at the university, regardless of whether they are externally or internally funded. The university

should agree to the following steps:

6.1. Full time employment to be the general and default form of contract for all Research Associate

and Assistant positions.

6.2. Part-time contracts should be optional for those who wish to choose them

6.3. Bridge funding of up to a year to be made available to Research Associates and Assistants

at the conclusion of their employment (10)

6.3.1. This funding will be provided for the purpose of completing publications, writing follow up

funding applications, and seeking new employment within or outside the University

6.3.2. This funding will be provided by the university directly or by funding bodies (as part of the

initial project proposal)

6.4. The prospect of permanency should be discussed between funders, PIs and HEIs at both

an early stage and the conclusion of the funding period

6.5. A minimum employment period of 2 years for all research associate/assistant contracts

6.5.1. External funding will not be deemed a sufficient reason for contracts of less than two

years in length

6.5.2. Bridge funding can be used to extend contracts where external funding has ended

6.6. Commit to a clear plan for the allocation of workload between PI, Co-Is, and Research

Associates and Assistants

6.7. PIs should not be the only line managers and decision-makers. A good structure of support

with at least two line managers and a mentor are to be offered to each researcher. Research

Associates and Assistants must be fully integrated into the University’s HR processes.

6.8. Commit to a citation ethics model to ensure early career researchers are credited for their work

6.8.1. A clear plan for the fair allocation of single and collectively authored work to be agreed upon

at the project planning stage.

  1. At the University of Leeds and Birkbeck, University of London, Institutional Strategic Support Funding

(ISSF) from Wellcome Trust has been used to create bridge funding for postdoctoral researchers in the

Medical Humanities. See https://wellcome.org/what-we-do/our-work/institutional-strategic-support-fund

6.9. In all Research Associate and Assistant contracts allocate as standard, and in accordance with

the Research Concordat, a minimum of 10 working days per year for postdoctoral researchers to

develop their independent research profiles, of at least 0.1FTE, to be taken either on a weekly basis

or in larger blocks.

6.10. Ensure that all Research Associates and Assistants are HERA scored.

6.11. Ensure that the university covers relocation costs for all Research Associate and Assistant

Positions

7.Ending the Unequal Treatment of Hourly Paid

Teaching and Research Staff

Of those hourly paid roles that remain as part of the agreement, the university should agree

steps, including:

7.1. Ensuring agreement with UCU representatives on all job roles and specifications across the

University that are outside of the 2004 Framework Agreement Role Profiles;

7.2. Ensuring that all Postgraduate Teaching Assistants, Demonstrators, Hourly Paid Lecturers, and

University Teachers are paid equally, and in accordance to pay grade, for the same activities across

all Schools, Departments, and Services;

7.3. Ensuring equal access to incremental progression for all staff on different forms of contract;

7.4. Reviewing the grades paid across schools, departments, and services to ensure compliance

with other agreements;

7.5. Ensure equal access to paid time for professional development opportunities.

  1. Tackling Graduate Teaching Assistant and

Postgraduate Demonstrator Insecurity

The university should agree steps, including:

8.1. Employee status for all Graduate Teaching Assistants

8.2. Guaranteed minimum and maximum working hours across all University departments for all

students employed on GTA or Demonstrator contracts;

8.3. Postgraduates employed on GTA or Demonstrator contracts to be paid for a minimum of 2

office hours/tutorial time per week;

8.4. All postgraduates employed on GTA or Demonstrator contracts to be paid for any lectures they attend that are connected to the courses they teach;

8.5. Standardise pay grades, including marking tariffs, across departments at the university for

all GTAs and Postgraduate Demonstrator positions;

8.6. Guaranteed paid preparation time for all GTA and Demonstrator contracts;

8.7. Guaranteed access to the relevant teaching qualification, free of charge (e.g. Postgraduate

Certificate for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education or the Advanced HE Programme).

  1. Ensure Adequate Facilities Time

9.1. Joint trade union representatives, particularly those on casualised contracts, will have to

dedicate significant time in order to undertake trade union duties to develop, negotiate and

implement this claim. Our claim includes a call for agreement on additional facilities time for the

joint trade unions to negotiate and implement this claim. Agreement to this would serve to

demonstrate the University’s commitment to addressing casualisation.

  1. Negotiating Forum

10.1. The joint trade unions submit this claim as a matter for collective bargaining under Section

178 (2) (a) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 ‘terms and conditions

of employment, or the physical conditions in which any workers are required to work’ and 4.3 of

the University Recognition and Facilities Agreement. (11) Negotiations should therefore be held

between representatives of the joint trade unions and University management alone. It is essential

that these negotiations take place in a timely and transparent fashion and that the objective should

be to reach agreement by the end of the Summer Term 2021, with implementation beginning in

Autumn 2021 at the earliest and January 2022 at the very latest. Agreement will be conditional

upon the establishment of a clear and fair timeline of implementation.

  1. Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992