Category: Higher Education

Calling all Casualised! UCU Annual Meeting for Staff on Casualised Contracts Friday 13 February 2015

UCU’s Annual Meeting for members on casualised contracts – Friday 13 February, UCU HQ Carlow Street, London

UCU is stepping up its campaign against the scandalous casualisation in our sector, seeking to recruit and organise more casualised staff and looking to involve more casualised members in the democratic life of our union.

Our Annual Meeting is a vital part of that democracy. The Annual Meeting:

• Elects the anti-casualisation committee, which advises the NEC;
• Sends motions to the committee to inform its work for the year,
• Features discussion and workshops to help members build the fight against casualisation in their own branches.

What’s happening at this year’s annual meeting?

This year’s annual meeting will feature speakers on the fight against zero hours contracts and on women and casualisation.
There will also be workshops on legal challenges to casualisation, on researching and communicating the effects of casualisation and on building effective local campaigns on casualisation.
It will be a great opportunity to contribute to the democratic life of the union and to help build the union’s campaign against casualisation.

Interested? Make sure your branch is represented at the Annual Meeting:

Each branch/local association is entitled to send two voting representative to the annual meeting. If you wish to attend, please contact your branch now.

Each branch delegate must have been been approved either by a quorate branch meeting, quorate branch committee meeting or by a properly constituted meeting of members on casualised contracts.

The deadline for registration is Friday 30 January 2015. If you would like to register please get in touch with your branch/LA committee asap! The registration form must be completed by Branch Secretaries / LA Presidents or other officers of the Branch/LA on behalf of members wishing to attend the conference.

For full details of how to register, click here
Email anticasualisation@ucu.org.uk for more information.
Travel costs are reimbursed as per UCU guidelines, and if you’re coming a long way you may be able to request overnight accommodation. If you think you might struggle to cover the cost of travel upfront, contact anticasualisation@ucu.org.uk to discuss options.

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Sheffield Hallam casualised lecturers call for full-time contracts

27 November 2014

(Originally posted by UCU at http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=7300&from=7266)

Lecturers at Sheffield Hallam University who are on casualised contracts want proper full-time contracts, according to a survey of staff released today. Four-fifths (80%) of respondents teach students at the university while the other 20% are involved in either research or teach and do research.

The poll, conducted by the local branch of UCU shows how staff on casualised contracts, such as part-time or the controversial zero-hours contracts, do not enjoy the flexibility they purport to provide and want proper working conditions.

Nine out of 10 people questioned (88%) said they would prefer a permanent contract with guaranteed hours of work. The report is a follow up to research carried out by UCU in 2013 that found that only 10 UK universities employed more academic staff on zero-hours contracts than Sheffield Hallam.

As well as concerns about the nature of the contracts themselves, other issues raised by staff included:

  • not being paid for preparation, marking and administrative work
  • lack of inclusion and participation in day-to-day activities at work
  • problems with contracts being issued on time
  • negative impact on staff mental health
  • lack of clarity and planning regarding recruitment and retention

UCU representative and co-author of the report, Bob Jeffrey said: ‘This report makes a mockery of claims that the flexibility provided by things such as zero-hours contracts benefit staff. People want a proper permanent contract because they want to know when they are working and they want to be able to plan their lives, not exist on a month-to-month or even week-to-week basis.

‘There a host of other issues that casualised staff face such as not being paid for preparation or marking, failing to be included in the day-to-day life of the university and even problems trying to sort out their contracts. We hope Sheffield Hallam will work with us to improve the lot of the casual staff member. We do not believe it is in students’ interests to see lecturers who may not be there the following month.’

A report on hourly paid contracts at Sheffield Hallam University, Nov 2014 (.pdf) [739kb]

Zero Hours Hell and today’s Private Members’ Bill

This Private Members’ Bill gets its second reading in the House of Commons *today* – Friday 21st November (probably about 1pm)… Have you asked your MP to make sure s/he is there yet? There is still time to do it here! You can also join us in putting pressure on MPs by tweeting on #ZeroHoursContracts, copy in @ucuanti_cas and you can also find your MP on Twitter here.

This isn’t a “perfect” Bill (it doesn’t abolish them or anything) but it would be a significant step if it got through. It is arguably the first serious attempt at a definition of a Zero Hours Contract. Even if it does not get through (sadly I’m guessing it’s unlikely but *hope*) calling attention to it helps keep the injustice that comes part and parcel with this exploitative form of employment in public view. It helps underline the point that we think it is unacceptable to continue routinely exploiting workers.

Let’s not forget being on a zero hours contract increasingly makes it difficult or impossible to *get* a rental contract, let alone be sure of making the rent each month.

Let’s not forget that zero hours contracts quite literally mean you are guaranteed ZERO HOURS of work. Let’s not forget that research (and common sense) links the increase in zero hours contracts and the growing problem of under-employment which has been on the rise for at least the past 6 years.

Let’s not forget that research also shows that people on zero hours contracts “receive lower gross-weekly pay (an average of £236 per week) than those who are not (an average of £482 per week) and workplaces that utilise zero-hours contracts have a higher proportion of staff on low pay (between the National Minimum Wage (NMW) of £6.19 per hour and £7.50 per hour) than those who do not” [Resolution Foundation, 2013].

Let’s not ignore that all zero hours workers necessarily receive rights and treatment many people take for granted at work, like proper holiday and sick pay – I didn’t, and these people don’t.

Let’s not pretend that zero hours workers appear in small numbers when the ONS estimate went from 200, 000 in 2012 to a revision of at least 1.4 million in April of this year which may well still be an underestimate because there is a lot of confusion among workers as to whether they are even on a zero hours contract, whether that’s in the public or private sector. UCU research shows that 46% of universities and 60% of colleges use zero hours contracts to deliver teaching – and we know that many institutions are under-reporting.  At least 307, 000 care workers in England alone are on zero hours and this has been linked to difficulties in maintaining quality of provision (how can people provide that quality when under pressure and treated unfairly?!). Zero hours in the retail sector is rife; well-known offenders like Sports Direct consign 80% of their workers to them.

Let’s not forget that zero hours contracts can significantly disrupt people’s lives and even prevent you from claiming benefits you need when your hours fluctuate wildly. Let’s also not forget that in May, the minister for employment Esther McVey started talking about JobCentre staff ‘mandating’ unemployed people to accept zero hours contracts or face benefit sanctions.

Let’s not pretend that the idea of “flexibility” so often put about by those who support zero hour contracts tends to favour anyone other than the employer. If you’re treated well on a zero hours contract that really is luck and fortune, it is not by contractual design. Many zero hours workers have reported that turning down work (supposed flexibility) can mean you’re offered less work in future because you’re not being “flexible” (aka flexploited) enough. Let’s not forget that zero hours contracts can make it utterly impossible to plan ahead effectively, which impacts on the lives of individuals and the people who love them.

Let’s not just shrug our shoulders and pretend it’s “just one of those things” that the lives of so many are blighted by this form of casualisation.

Let’s fight back.

It is possible to win

Please email and tweet your MP if you haven’t done so already, and please join the conversation!

Vicky Blake, ACC Chair

Why casualised staff should vote for action over USS

If you’re on a casualised contract worrying about your pension might seem remote, perverse even. For the tens of thousands of staff who endure on fixed-term teaching or research contracts, who worry about where their next funding pot is coming from or who struggle on hourly paid teaching contracts, it’s the lack of job security that causes immediate stress and anxiety.

This is all completely understandable but the reality is that what’s happening to the USS pension scheme is a matter for every member of academic staff working in the pre-92 university sector.

The pension benefits that are available to staff through USS are under an attack that is designed to create greater insecurity in retirement for staff. That might sound extreme but it’s true.

USS is one of the last pension schemes to keep what’s called a ‘defined benefit’ pension structure, whereby you know roughly what you will get in retirement, whether it’s defined by your final salary or your career average salary. In the last 30 years, private sector pensions have almost universally become ‘defined contribution’ schemes that place more risk on individuals and produce lower benefits in retirement.

USS is also a major investor with a portfolio of different investments, including shares in the City that earn income for the scheme. The government’s pensions regulator wants to make sure that USS remains solvent so that its costs never fall on the taxpayer, so it is demanding that USS ‘de-risks’ its investments and raises the contributions being made into the scheme, while cutting the scheme’s liabilities (otherwise known as your pension benefits). That’s why the USS board is insisting on a valuation methodology that artificially creates a big deficit. This provides the justification to call for higher contributions and to cut benefits.

University employers don’t want their contributions to keep rising, so they are putting forward proposals that shift more risk onto you by cutting your retirement benefits.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the final salary section or the career average section now, your pension in retirement will be worse as result of these proposals.

If you are on a casual contract you may not even be in the scheme, but it’s still vital to vote for action.

If you want to stay in the sector, build a career and work in a pre-92 university, USS will be your scheme. The employers have imposed highly detrimental changes on USS once already, back in 2011 and the danger is that they will do so again now. And it is improbable to suggest that they won’t come back again.

That’s why the fight for USS is just as much a fight for casualised staff as for the permanent. If casualised staff don’t take action now, the danger is that their future retirements will be even more insecure than their current employment.

The fight for security is one that unites all UCU members. UCU is campaigning against insecurity in employment and we fight with the same vigour for security in retirement.

That’s why we urge all members, whatever their employment status, to stand together and fight for greater security in work and greater security in retirement.

Download and distribute this new leaflet aimed at casualised staff now. Make sure that all members stand together for security in work and security in retirement.

VOTE YES TO ACTION

Catch-22: The struggle to do research on a temporary teaching-only contract

Since 2013 I’ve been fortunate enough to be on a permanent contract as a lecturer, with teaching and research in my workload. But for the past two years after finishing my PhD, this was a much different situation, as I was on casualised teaching-only contracts. Don’t get me wrong; there were many valuable things about working at these jobs: they allowed me to pay the rent (which I desperately needed at the time) and, while the pay was significantly less than what I am earning now, it was at least enough to survive on (which is not the case for many casualised jobs, such as hourly paid teaching).  I have met some fantastic colleagues, and in one of the institutions where I worked, was given some very helpful mentoring. I was able to get some important teaching experience and now have a better understanding of how things work in different institutions.

However, because these contracts were teaching-only, they did not include the time or resources to do research. And it’s very difficult to do research when you’re doing it on your own time and it’s not officially part of your job. Temporary teaching-only contracts often have quite heavy teaching loads, in part because research is not included. I know this sounds unfair (because it is!), but my teaching load was actually heavier when I was working on part-time contracts than it is now on a full-time contract (which is why I’m now able to be much more productive), and the temporary nature of the post meant continually having to apply for the next job, which took a lot of time that could have been spent on research.

And—here’s the catch-22—in HE, research is the only way to escape casualised employment. In other words, no time to publish=no publishing=no permanent job. That’s the reality of today’s job situation in HE, particularly because October 2013 was the cut-off point for including staff in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) census. I should point out that if I did not have publications for the REF, I probably would not have my current job today.

In retrospect, the only way I was able to publish was through literally sacrificing any amount of free time I had: I would write on evenings, weekends, on the train (because these temporary contracts were not really long enough to make it worth relocating, I had to commute). In retrospect, I don’t know how I kept my sanity. I don’t have children or caring responsibilities and have a sympathetic and supportive partner, which made this possible. Otherwise it would have been much more difficult.

Also, I got to know others employed on similar contracts working at the same institution (as we shared the office) and noticed that they were mostly 1) early career academics and 2) younger women (although the HESA statistics do not show a gender disparity in terms of staff employed on temporary, teaching-only contracts). I don’t know how representative these experiences are, but it does make me wonder if the generation of academics is being stuck in these sorts of temporary, teaching only posts to free up time for more established academics (or at least those on teaching-and-research contracts like I am now) to produce publications for the REF, a trap that it is very difficult to escape.

According to the latest HESA statistics, teaching-only contracts are more likely to be temporary and part-time than teaching-and-research contracts.  And now, more disturbingly, almost half of teaching-only contracts are now zero-hours. While my previous contracts were temporary, at least I had the certainty of knowing how many hours a week I would be working, and that I would be earning enough to support myself financially. Can you imagine doing research when you have no idea when you will be working, or if you will be earning enough money to live on? How are you supposed to plan time, or have the peace of mind to write?

These contracts are often defended in terms of employers’ needs for flexibility.  I also hear arguments about how “some people like teaching and don’t want to do research”—but there’s often an implicit assumption that some people don’t want job security either. I also wonder how many people in these posts actually “don’t want to do research” and how many of these people actually do want to do research but are stuck in teaching-only posts, and furthermore, how many are actually early career academics who are struggling to build a profile when they are having to write and publish on their own time, in some cases with little acknowledgment that they are carrying out research. This is why we need to pay more attention to this issue as UCU activists, particularly as more institutions plan to expand the use of teaching-only contracts and as the next REF approaches. It’s particularly important for us to campaign for time, resources and support for casualised staff to carry out research and build academic profiles.

Manchester UCU – Bargaining and campaigning for casualised staff over the long term

Manchester University is one of the biggest research intensive universities in the UK, employing more than 1,700 research staff. With such a large body of researchers, the use of casualised fixed-term contracts has long been a big issue at the university, which is one reason why the local UCU branch has made it a long-term strategic objective to win greater security and continuity of employment and fairer treatment for these staff. What’s notable and interesting about Manchester UCU’s approach is how long they have persevered, combined organising, campaigning and long-term negotiations to win comprehensive local agreements that cover their casualised staff. As we’ll see, problems remain, which make it necessary to organise, campaign and negotiate constantly to police how these agreements are implemented. But the lessons are there, nonetheless.

Greater security for fixed-term staff

When the fixed-term regulations came into force in 2006, like lots of other branches, Manchester’s used it as an opportunity to press their HR department to transfer large numbers of fixed-term staff. As it became apparent that this wasn’t happening, they sought to press management for a local policy and started to campaign and organise among fixed-term staff to create pressure from below. Under joint union pressure, a university working group was convened in 2006 and by May 2007 it was discussing an initial draft policy.

It wasn’t till December 2010 that the branch was finally able to win agreement on a progressive policy covering fixed-term contract staff. This included the crucial policy commitment to ‘seek to employ people on permanent contracts where possible’. The agreement also included a tight and narrow definition of the circumstances under which it was appropriate to use a fixed-term contract.

Perhaps most importantly, the university made a commitment to end the use of ‘hybrid’ open-ended contracts with a stipulated end date. Instead, Manchester agreed to recognise only two kinds of contract: fixed-term and permanent. This meant that research staff whose employment depended on external funding won important new protections. They were contractually no different from other permanent employees and won equal rights to other permanent staff when the term to their funding placed them at risk of redundancy, including being properly consulted with a view to avoiding redundancy, being placed on the redeployment register and getting redundancy pay. In addition, individuals made redundant via this route would continue to be paid employees, on the redeployment register for three months after their funding ceased. Finally, the termination of fixed-term contracts, the threat of redundancy among externally funded research staff and the general policing of the policy were to be monitored by a fixed-term contracts committee. The agreement would, the university said, give the ‘opportunity to enhance the quality of employment’, while ‘working toward a balance between flexibility and efficient and fair working practices’.

The branch continue to use the new machinery established under the agreement to ensure that the policy is implemented properly, which needs constant vigilance. There continue to be plenty of examples where the policy is not followed, so it needs constant monitoring through the bargaining machinery established through the agreement. But the agreement is a major improvement for research staff at Manchester and the branch continue to organise around it to ensure that researchers know their rights and they included it in their recent recruitment work.

More rights for Graduate Teaching Assistants and no Zero-Hours contracts

In 2010, as the research contracts policy was being signed off, the branch also began to organise and campaign around the need for a similar policy to cover its Graduate Teaching Assistant population, mainly, but not solely comprised of PhD students. Meetings of GTAs were organised to find out the extent of the problems and build support for an agreement during June and November 2010.

In April 2011, the university agreed to set up a teaching assistant review group and the branch sought to ensure that GTAs were able to feed into these group meetings. Consultation meetings on early draft policies were organised with GTAs and other hourly paid staff. Then, late in 2012, the branch signed off a final GTA agreement.

Under the final policy, the university agreed to ensure that GTAs all received one of a family of formalised job descriptions referenced against the nationally agreed academic role profiles and all received a formal contract of employment. Under the agreement, all GTAs were assimilated to the National Pay spine and those who had worked up four years service had incremental progression.

A key win under the policy was the general policy commitment to ensure that teaching assistants ‘should not be treated as casual’. This commitment is delivered on via a range for mechanisms including the transfer of staff after four years of fixed-term contracts and can include the use of pro-rata contracts.

Another critical achievement was the commitment to eradicate zero hours contracts. Zero hours contracts had been widely used in some faculties but the branch scored a major success in winning management to the idea that there was benefit in moving all these staff on a‘defined hours’ contract with a few retained on ‘minimal hours contract’ to allow for specific flexibilities. The branch were able to convince management that such defined hours contracts ‘would give greater stability and reliability in the use of teaching assistants.’

Again, of course, there remain problems with implementing the agreement, yet despite this its mere existence gives local reps the opportunity to hold management to account.

What’s most impressive about Manchester UCU’s achievement is the fact that as far back as 2004, the branch identified casualised staff as a strategic priority. Having done so, they made a long-term commitment to the issue and to combining campaigning, organising and collective bargaining over the long-haul. It’s not perfect and like any policy, it needs to be constantly policed which requires the branch to keep organising and talking to management. But there’s no doubt that these agreements have paid off in the form of real improvements for many vulnerable staff.

Message of Solidarity from IFUT #AntiCas14

Our sister union in Ireland has sent the following solidarity message for today’s Anti-Casualisation Day of Action:

“On behalf of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) I have great pleasure in sending greetings of solidarity and support to your Anti-Casualisation Day of Action.

Insecurity of employment in any sector of society is a cruel imposition on vulnerable people in the interests of profit and unfair levels of control. However, in the area of higher education, casualisation is a lethal weapon used to undermine the principle and practice of academic freedom. We in IFUT see the campaign against growing casualisation not only as a battle on behalf of our own members directly affected but as part of a wider, more fundamental struggle to maintain not just decent standards of work but also to preserve such socially essential rights as academic freedom and the free pursuit of knowledge.
We are proud to be in the same frontline as you today.”

Mike Jennings

General Secretary

Irish Federation of University Teachers

http://www.ifut.ie @Ifut

We Need To Talk About Casualised Staff…Day of Action 7 May 2014

stampout_promolg1.gif

Stamp Out Casual Contracts

UCU’S Anti-Casualisation campaign is fighting the abuses faced by staff on casual contracts within further and higher education. We hope that all members will support this campaign and stand with colleagues on casual contracts to put an end to such abuse.

The UCU National Day of Action aims:

  • to recruit staff on casualised/insecure contracts
  • to encourage more members to be involved in their union
  • to campaign in support of negotiating improvements

Your branch may be holding recruitment stalls, meetings, rights workshops and other events on the day itself and those following. If your branch hasn’t agreed anything yet don’t worry. The Day of Action is about launching ongoing campaigning and organising for the coming year too. Anyone can take part in the campaign, and everyone who does will make a difference! Here are a couple of really easy things you can do to support the Day of Action and the fight for secure contracts that goes beyond it – remember we need support of staff on casualised and permanent, salaried contracts:

  1. Ask your branch to pledge to hold a meeting on casualisation before the end of term. Once your branch has agreed, email the pledge to anticasualisation@ucu.org.uk. Check the website for suggested activities and downloadable resources
  2. 2.    Take a photo of yourself with one of our downloadable posters and email it to us – with your name and institution – so that we can add it to our photo album for the day.
  3. Tweet your solidarity picture to @UCUAnti_Cas and use the hashtag #anticas14 – we’re making a collage of the solidarity photos! (You can obscure your face with the poster if you’re shy or worried)
  4. Forward the recruitment email that comes out on the day to colleagues and talk to them about joining UCU
  5. Sign up to and attend the national UCU Anti-Casualisation Training and Organising Conference on Thursday 5th June! (Travel expenses reimbursed by the national union)

 Staff on casualised contracts matter to UCU

THE UCU ANTI-CASUALISATION CAMPAIGN IS AN ISSUE FOR ALL STAFF

A Precarious Life: Bristol meeting report

 

One more

One more fixed-term contract and I’ll have this room finished (man wallpapers room with fixed-term contracts)

On a casualised contract? Tired of feeling alone, vulnerable and underrepresented? On Wednesday, 22nd January, University of Bristol UCU hosted A Precarious Life: A UCU Anti-Casualisation Workshop. Organised by Tracey Hooper, Bristol Vice President, and Jamie Melrose, Bristol Hourly-Paid Teacher (HPT) Rep, as well as Ana Lopes, UWE UCU Research & Associate Lecturer Rep, and Hedley Bashforth, University of Bath UCU Secretary, A Precarious Life saw HPTs, fixed-term researchers, graduate teaching assistants, UCU members and all manner of staff on casualised (as well as full time!) contracts, from around the Bristol and Bath area, come together to discuss and organise around the issue of casualised labour in Higher Education

Keynote speech

The sessions that made up the day allowed participants to share their experiences; to detail the increasing institutional reliance on casualised staff in Bristol and Bath Universities and to begin to effectively organise around the issue. A Precarious Life kicked off with a keynote from Vicky Blake, Chair of the UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee (ACC). Vicky drew attention to how the concerns of casualised labour — job insecurity and workloads; the lack of institutional recognition — were becoming a key platform in UCU. The ACC is a good example of this. The casualisation of work in HE and Further Education (FE) is no longer a dirty, unarticulated secret: it is a matter of public concern. Vicky noted that union activity may seem like a bit of a jump for those currently in precarious jobs. One has potentially a lot to lose given the arbitrary way in which such labour is awarded. This acknowledged, UCU is increasingly aware it needs to be an open and inclusive organisation, aware of the casualised staff lot.

Know your rights

The session Know Your Rights, facilitated by Hedley and Nick Varney, UCU South West Regional Officer, focused on what UCU is doing with regard to insecure and low pay casualised contracts. Worryingly, these types of contracts are on the rise in HE and FE. There are egregious zero hours contracts with no working rights, agency contracts, and armies of teaching staff on variable contract (VHC) terms – where hours are agreed on a termly or annual basis. VHCs are often as insecure as zero hour’s contracts: no guaranteed hours or salary; teachers and researchers carrying out the activities of full time staff without compensation or equal treatment. HR departments often don’t even know how many people they employ on these contracts! After all, dismissal is only evidenced by not giving a new contract: many workers’ contracts end in May/June but they won’t know whether they have another contract until September.

In terms of what casualised staff should know, there are three key pieces of legislation:

  • Equal pay legislation governing pay differences between men and women
  • Part time workers legislation
  • Fixed term workers regulations in which if a worker is employed for a series of fixed terms where the gap between terms is because of the organisation of the academic year, after 4 years, these contracts can be made permanent

The last piece of legislation is particularly noteworthy as UCU wants to end VHCs (unless in certain emergency conditions). A key task, then, is to establish clear ‘trigger points’ for when people are given guaranteed hours with exactly the same terms and conditions as full-time equivalent staff. In the Q&A, Tracey added that Bristol UCU is currently leading on moving to fractional contracts.

Early Career & Contract Researchers

In the workshop Early Career & Contract Researchers, facilitator Kirsten Forkert from Birmingham City University explored the lot of the early career researcher (ECR). Participants talked about the ECR ‘catch-22’: having to show publications at job interviews whilst employed in teaching jobs or in roles in which their research does not contribute to their own profile. There is also a lack of institutional acknowledgment of ECRs in universities on the part of managers and full-time staff. Because of cuts in funding, the demise of the post-doc and the demands of the REF ‘complex’, ECRs are expected to perform above and beyond, bereft of the necessary recognition of their precarious, isolated, condition.

How to deal with all this? When it comes to, for example, setting up support networks, participants felt ECRs might not want to get involved. They are understandably concentrating on trying to develop their own research profiles. Suggestions were also made about UCU setting out a clear vision of an alternative research culture. Equally important is to connect the issue of casualisation with the general trend in HE regarding said culture. It is still difficult to raise awareness about these issues with some senior staff seeing casualised labour as a necessary rites of passage rather than an institutional choice on the part of university managers to devalue the wok of researchers.

Creative Protest

In the session Creative Protest, Chris Jury from Bath Spa University talked about the parallels between the 1980s deregulation of labour conditions in TV and film and what is now going on in HE and FE. For Chris, colleagues seem unable to conceive of what is coming their way in terms of casualisation: there seems to be an unwillingness to accept how much worse it can get. Most academics prefer not to oppose/organise but just persevere. Apathy is academia is unfortunately rife: private grumbling is not translated into public, collective action. There was some discussion about how to do this. Participants contended university workers need to focus on raising awareness about casualised contract conditions within universities. Moreover, a range of support and participation is crucial: The 3 Cosas Campaign at the University of London – staff and students working together – is a good example here.

In the concluding Q & A participants again reflected on the perennial issue: what is to be done. Jamie argued we need to think about modifying workplace behaviour: actively treating all university workers equally, rather than just passively assuming the supposed rigid “meritocratic” hierarchies enforced by senior and middle management. After all, when was the last time a Head of School proposed a genuine inclusive policy regarding casualised staff? There exists no real positive vision in our workplaces, our schools and departments, for how our research and teaching environments should resemble some of the values articulated by academics and UCU.

As for the general reception of A Precarious Life, there was a consensus that it represented an important first step in building a local and regional support network for staff on casualised contracts. The opportunity for people to meet fellow casualised staff served an important awareness-raising purpose. A Precarious Life will hopefully, at the very least, be the start of a sustained anti-casualisation effort at Bristol and Bath universities!

If you are interested in participating or finding out more about the above issues, please get in touch with us via anticasualisation@ucu.org.uk or Twitter @UCUAnti_Cas. If you’re in the South West please do get in touch with either Jamie Melrose — jamie.melrose@bristol.ac.uk or Tracey Hooper —t.a.hooper@bristol.ac.uk who organised the above event to get involved locally!

A special thanks to Cerelia Athanassiouand Maria Fannin for taking the notes!

Combating Zero Hours at London Met

by Christina Paine

The use of zero hours contracts in health, retail and catering has been widely publicised recently.  Shockingly, at London Met nearly half of  lecturing staff are on these contracts, suffering poverty, and precarity,  lack of holiday or sick pay and few comparable facilities or  opportunities for professional development compared to permanent staff. In  the present context, with strikes over student education and staff pay, this often hidden inequity has to be challenged and changed and  zero hours contracts abolished. We, UCU, have launched a campaign to raise  awareness, and challenge London Met’s use of these contracts. We have a  charter and a video in progress; and at the time of writing a Public Meeting set for 13th November with John McDonnell MP, Catherine West  (Labour, Islington Council); and John Fox Branch chair of Hovis at Wigan  and Angela Lamb (from Edinburgh University) both of whom have had recent success in forcing management to put all staff on secure and equitable  contracts. We can do the same. To join our campaign please  email c.paine@londonmet.ac.uk.

Christina Paine, London Metropolitan University UCU