A View from the Anti-Casualisation Fringe – Congress 2014

The fringe began with a summary of the Day of Action and recent activities of the Anti-Casualisation Committee (ACC) such as our media work and collection of testimonies of affected staff given by the Chair and Vice Chair. Alexis Wearmouth of SOAS then gave a detailed account of the successful campaign he and his colleagues had conducted resulting in substantially improved terms and conditions for fractional contract staff with a settlement amounting to £150,000, bringing their 6-week work to rule to a conclusion. In a college environment where fractional staff do the bulk of front-line teaching, the existence of a coherent lobbying group with a political science or development studies background had contributed to a growing sense of solidarity but the crucial tool at SOAS had been their statistical survey and the compelling evidence it produced. Alexis was followed by Faizi Ismail’s account of the development of action among casualised staff at Liverpool Metropolitan University. She set out the measures her group had undertaken to create a network of casual zed staff and to publicize their campaign. Bob Jeffery of Sheffield Hallam also alluded to the positive effects of their survey, while Des Freeman of Goldsmiths pointed to efforts made in the college to promote equal treatment for part-timers. Jim Davenport from the London Region discussed the use of action tool-kits and of branch level casualised staff representatives . David Drayton from Middlesex College explained some of the legal measures that can be invoked by part-time and zero-hours staff. Charles Fox then explained the struggle for better conditions for part-time and casualised researchers at UCL and elsewhere.

The different activities referred to by the speakers and from the floor included survey work, IT test cases, and successfully opposing out-sourcing to employment agencies (such as UNITEMPS at the University of Warwick which services several universities). It was observed that there was a determination on the part of employers to “normalize HRC’s and to find loopholes to continue to exploit casualised workers in higher and further education. It was generally felt at the meeting that “if we don’t secure the rights of casualised staff- employers will also casualise the secure”. David Armstrong from Barnet & Southgate College gave an account of his branch’s work on equal pay case-work and collective agreement and outlined some highly successful cases. At Barnet & Southgate a ‘war of attrition’ focusing on the easier to win cases has begun to turn the tide against indiscriminate use of casualisation. Christiana Payne from London Met which has over 800 hourly paid lecturers, gave a comprehensive account of their ongoing work to smash management’s efforts to undermine them and to build up an effective resistance. More generally, some of the potential legal measures and action strategies for contact staff were discussed in the room. Jonathan White (UCU) gave some evidence of case-law and of the state of play regarding ZHC’s in both H/FE.

The fringe attracted about 60 attendees and reinforced the strong voice of casualized staff at Congress. It was apparent from this rich discussion which threatened to spill into the formal session time for Congress, that casualization was being challenged in a multiplicity of institutions and much evidence was gathered which would be of use to the ACC in planning future strategy.

Terry Duffy, Glyndwr University