Warwick University’s Reliance on Fixed Term Contracts: How the Vulnerable Subsidise “Excellence with Purpose”

In 2002, UCEA agreed with the UCU that “fair and flexible employment arrangements should reflect … principles,” including the principle that  “indefinite contracts are the general form of employment relationship between employers and employees” (UCU 2002: 6).

Broadly across the UK, use of fixed term contracts in teaching and research (R&T) and teaching focused/teaching only (TF) jobs has declined, from 29% of staff performing these functions in 2004/5 to 24% in 2016/17 – the last year for which HEA data are currently available (Graph 1). (Analysis here intentionally excludes research focused/research only (RF) staff, whose fixed term contracts typically fall outside the direct responsibility of university management.)

Staffing at the University of Warwick (UoW) initially mirrored UK trends, as the percentage of staff on fixed term contracts, employed for T&R and TF functions, declined from 28% in 2004/05 to reach a low of 12% in 2012/13. However, as elsewhere in the Russell Group (8), as of 2014/15 this percentage not only grew but by 2016/17 had achieved an all-time high (since ‘digital records are available’) of 34% (Graph 2)!

Of course, it may be coincidental that this growth trend took off after the tuition fee cap was raised for the academic year 2012/13. But it is more likely that the expansion of recruitment in fixed term staff was driven and funded by the rise in fees, as UoW income from tuition and grants rose from £190 million in 2012/13 to £213 million in 2013/14, £240 million in 2014/15 and £275 million in 2015/16 (2).

The rapid rise in fixed term staff in 2015/16 mirrors a notable recovery in university gross operating surplus as well (that is, money left over after operational costs of research and teaching). The gross surplus rebounded from -2% in 2014/15 (following a dip from 3% in 2013/14 due to unexpected USS contribution increases) to a very healthy 9% in 2015/16, before further positive outcomes of 7% (2016/17) and 9% (2017/18) (2).

So while the sector as a whole has reduced its dependency on fixed term staff, the UoW appears to have used these staff to buffer changes to university funding, and to support growing student numbers (which had been on the decline since 2009/10, after the UK Parliament voted to increase the cap on fees to £9,000) (Graph 3).

Moreover, the reliance on fixed term contracts externalises the risk of taking on permanent staff, as these contracts hold open the opportunity for non-renewal and therefore free up capital for other purposes, thereby actively subsidising expansion of gross operating surplus – for which university management sets a target of 5% per annum (3). This surplus can then be prioritised for investment both in replacing and expanding infrastructure, and used to buffer future financial shocks.

Bottom line, without recourse to such high proportions of fixed term staff, the UoW would be entirely unable to  operate at anywhere near its current scale or level of academic quality and financial sustainability.

Administrators might argue that there are reasons to feel complacent about these developments. Such contracts do after all supply jobs to excellent colleagues who contribute in no small part to the overall output of university operations. Yet it’s clear that questions of collegial value take a back seat for senior decision-makers, as they ‘drive for efficiency’ (4) in pursuit of growth: “Warwick in 2030 will be larger than now, both in our student population and our research. That growth will be sustainable and will never compromise on quality” (5). By contrast, it seems little ‘accounting’ exists of the real cost to individuals working on fixed term and even more vulnerable STP contracts.

Indeed, in practical terms the ‘quality’ of experience here for these employees often brings them to tears (6). Anyone who has experienced working under fixed term conditions, or knows others who have, will be familiar with the omnipresent anxiety that intensifies as a contract nears its end. Concerns about paying the rent, repaying debts and supporting the family tend to blur into existential breakdown, growing self-doubt and an eroding sense of self-worth. Most staff will never report these worries to anyone other than their partners, often not even to work friends, given the widespread stigmatisation and discourses of those “unable to cope” – accentuated by a university culture of formal and informal completion for REF returns, promotion and general recognition. Those who suffer these experiences over repeated cycles find their personal lives coming under severe strain; in extreme cases, relationships may collapse and families must absorb the fallout.

Colleagues on permanent contracts, meanwhile, may be unaware or unconcerned that their departments have become honeycombed with precarity. They might even conclude that these legally temporary if ubquitous essentials of human resources are at least lucky enough to have some sort of job – even if they never manage to secure a pigeonhole, aren’t invited to staff meetings and don’t get a profile on the department webpages. There remains a widespread lack of awareness that without fixed term and STP staff, there would be many less permanent jobs to go around – the reality is, the security of some is subsidised by the insecurity foisted on others.

Line managers may make genuine efforts to support their staff, yet they face structural contradictions when attempting to do the decent thing. Even the best intentioned must deal with inflexible (irony noted!) university accounting cycles and resource allocation processes, while struggling to keep staffing at anything like sustainable and effective levels. They are often able to do no more than pay lip service to matters of work/life balance and mental health. Those with the right social capital may be able to free up resources by ‘talking to the Provost,’ but those without connections find themselves returning empty-handed from Academic Resourcing Committee (ARC) meetings, without the posts they need.

Warwick UCU believes that these conditions are unacceptable, full stop. But they are especially egregious in an HE sector that aspires to lead the world, and at a Russell Group university that claims to take the notion of ‘dignity at work’ seriously.

If you’re angry that casualisation has become business as usual in your workplace, we hope you’ll join our Four Fights campaign to end these conditions for vulnerable colleagues. We’re fighting to roll back the use of fixed term and vulnerable staff across UK HE; here on campus, it’s time to stop the subsidy extracted from the most vulnerable among us by Warwick University Ltd (7).

Wondering what steps to take? You can:

  1. Join the UCU right now – subscriptions are a small monthly sum, they support all our work at national and local levels, and they provide access to individual legal and case-worker support for you and others who encounter challenges at work.
  2. Contact the UCU and volunteer to take an active part in our campaign against precarity, as well as with our sister organisation the Warwick Anti-Casualization group.
  3. Show your unhappiness with the exploitative status quo by participating in our ongoing industrial action, or just by coming to talk to us on the picket line located at the bus exchange.

References

(1) Descriptive statistics generated by Warwick UCU, based on HESA 2020.

(2) Analysis by Warwick UCU, based on University of Warwick Financial Statements.

(3) UoW financial statements for the year ending 31 July 2018.

(4) Cf. UoW planning documents for the years 2014-18.

(5) UoW (2018). University Strategy: Excellence with Purpose.

(6) Cf. the testimonies collected in the #unistory project, as well as personal accounts offered by brave colleagues as part of the UCU-WAC precarity protest day, 3 March 2020.

(7) E. P. Thompson (2013). If you can’t get a copy of this foundational text from the ‘company’ library (as the record suggests, current demand is too great for the supply), this “40 years on” reflection by former students is a worthwhile 20 min read.

(8) UCU (2020). Fear of Reputational Damage.

Day 6: Money (That’s What I Want)

“The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want”

Today was another great day on the picket line. The sun was shining and a Motown and Soul playlist kept everyone bopping.

Today’s picket was graciously sponsored by our members from the Philosophy Department and Professional Services from across the University.

We were also joined by Felix Ling, the Labour candidate for Stratford.

We also played the Gender Pay Gap game designed by our member Ninna. Unsurprisingly, the men won!

And speaking of games, our chalk game was seriously on point.

We also continued the production of our #unistories.

As always, we spent time with good friends, old and new!

All in all a good picket! We’re building up for a strong early morning picket tomorrow (8-11) and our best turnout yet on Wednesday (10-1:30)!

WHEN THEY SAY CUT BACK, WE SAY FIGHT BACK!

 

Warwick Anticasualisation Rally

The deeply moving words below are the text of the speech given by Katja Laug on behalf of Warwick Anticasualisation on Day 2 of the UCU Strike 2019.  We reproduce these in full so people have the chance to understand why we are taking action and to understand the way that HE institutions, especially Warwick, treats these friends, colleagues, comrades.  The sector has changed to be unrecognisable from the one that many of us entered 20, 3o or 40 years ago.  Warwick UCU would like to reiterate our support for all workers at Warwick.  If you would like to support us in this, please donate to the solidarity fund which will help support low income members to take action, to fight, alongside us.


Education is not a commodity. Students are not customers. And educators are not service providers. Yet, these are the terms upon which Warwick and universities across the UK, conduct the education of its students.

According to the HESA Staff Record of 2015/16, collated by the UCU, Warwick ranked at #1 for Teaching Only and Teaching & Research Staff who were insecurely employed – this included our colleagues on fixed-term contracts, and those employed as Sessional Tutors. According to this data, 66.5% of teaching and research staff at this university are employed precariously. 60% of teaching delivered at this university is given by casualised “workers”.

Week in, week out, we have to justify that we deserve the pay for our work. Yet we cannot claim for the actual hours it takes us to prepare classes or grade papers as the university decides how many hours we can claim for marking and prep time. We do not gain benefits from continuous employment, which means that we do not know whether we will secure a paycheque beyond the immediate future.We cannot evidence income for visas or citizenship. We cannot plan – for the immediate or mid-term futures. Classes can be dropped at will, and our hours cut. If we were to become seriously ill, require compassionate leave, or become pregnant, we simply would not be paid, despite teaching, marking, and contributing to the accredited courses which Warwick “delivers” to its students. Through these processes, we are forced into antagonistic relationships not only with senior management at this university, but with our Heads of Department, our professional/administration teams, our colleagues and, ultimately, our students. This is not only not good enough, but it is simply unsustainable.

Strike action has been called to combat pay inequality in the university: the precarious nature of academia for early career researchers dictates what kind of researchers can realistically pursue a career in the academy. These kinds of insecure pay structures disproportionally affect women, disabled people, and BAME researchers.

The question we have to ask ourselves, our colleagues, our Heads of Department, our students, and most importantly of our senior management is: is this what the university should be like? Should knowledge, education, and research only be open to those who can afford it? To those who can afford to take the risks associated with becoming an academic in the neoliberal university?

We know that by working collectively, we can build a better university. We have won before, and can win again. In recent years, casualised staff fought off the university’s attempt to impose Teach Higher – a precursor to the current system. But that success was only possible with the solidarity from more established and secure colleagues.

We are pleased to welcome everyone to the picket line today. It is great to see so many of you voted in favour of fighting for our financial futures – for our pensions. But as casualised staff and early career researchers we also see the immediate need to address pay inequality and job insecurity, which hinder us from envisaging a ‘future’ in academia at all. That’s why we see the demands in both ballots inseparable and equally important – you cannot have one without the other. The marketisation of higher education is meant to divide us, and to stop us to fight as a collective. We can’t let it happen.

On this note, it has come to our attention that a number of departments have employed strike-breaking tactics which pose tremendous threats for casualised staff to take industrial action. Notably, the Philosophy department has sent an email to its students, asking them to report specific staff who have taken strike action. The online form that they have sent to students includes a mandatory field to report staff. STP tutors in Philosophy have also been asked to report to the department whether they were not striking, indirectly reporting to the department those who are striking. They have also been offered the opportunity to seek support from their Director of Graduate Studies, which blurs the line between being on an STP contract ad being a postgraduate student. Staff from the Chemistry department are also threatened by an email, saying that they should take their ‘future career prospect’ into consideration before taking industrial actions. We find it outrageous that departmental management deliberately attack our soft spots – in these circumstances our care for students and passion to pursue an academic career – to stop us from striking, rather than coming out with constructive plans to make the academic workforce and higher education more sustainable.

If you are employed via STP you should declare to the STP resource email account that you are striking every day, including days that you would not typically work, in order to cause disruption. They will reply asking you to fill in an online self-declaration form via SuccessFactors. DO NOT do this, you are under no legal or contractual obligation to do so.

As precarious workers we stand in solidarity with precarious workers everywhere. We call on UCL to end out-sourcing cleaning staff, and porters, we support the workers at Amazon in their fight for a living wage, our solidarity goes to the McStrikers, Goldsmiths cleaners, Uber drivers, the workers in Chile who mine the minerals for the ECars that are supposed to keep Europe clean, and all strikers and protesters for dignity, justice, and security in the UK and worldwide. We stand with WarwickOccupy and their anti-racist action and we stand with cleaners and porters at Warwick, who are disproportionately affected by Warwick’s plans to scrap the subsidised bus tickets with e Courcey under the guise of redirecting the money for the Green New Deal. These fights are interconnected and intersectional and we recognise that we, the academic precariat, are only the tip of the melting iceberg.

WAC, or Warwick Anti-casualisation, is a self-organised group of PGRs and ECRs from across the university that has been active since 2015. We work closely with the UCU, but we are not directly a part of the UCU. We have been organizing events to help people under STP understand their contracts and get support when something was incorrect or unfair on their contract. We welcome any ECR or PGR who is precariously employed to join our WhatsApp and Facebook organising groups.

Strike FAQ for Warwick students

This is information for all Warwick students who would like to know more about why lecturers, librarians, IT and other professional service staff at Warwick are taking industrial action.

For a PDF version click here.


What is the strike about
What is it we want? What would constitute a win?
Why should students care?
How does industrial action affect you?
How can Warwick students help?


What is the strike about? 

There are two reasons why we are striking:  
  • First, to protect staff pensions, which are under renewed attack after the 2018 dispute.
  • Second, to fight for the rights of casualised, female and BAME staff. Growing numbers of staff are working on short-term or precarious contracts that don’t pay them enough to make ends meet. There is also a persistent gender and racial pay gap. This means that at Warwick, for instance, women earn 74p for every £1 earned by men and BAME staff are paid an average of 25% less than their white colleagues. This action is about stopping the downgrading of pensions, ending casualisation and closing the gender and racial pay gap.

UCU Strikes Summary (PDF slides)

What is it we want? What would constitute a win? 

Our demands are simple:
  • Protect staff pensions so that we can retire without facing poverty;
  • Pay a £10/hour minimum rate for directly employed staff, and commit to the Living Wage Foundation’s pay rates for the lowest paid on campus;
  • Agree to develop a programme to close the gender and BAME pay gap; 
  • Agree to create a framework to eliminate precarious employment and to tackle rising workloads;
  • Ensure that staff pay keeps up with inflation (salaries have fallen 20% on average over the past decade)

These demands are easy to meet. We’re asking UUK (Universities UK, the association of university employers) to work with us to end the rampant levels of inequality in our workplaces and to make sure that people can actually afford to live on the pay for the jobs they do.

Why should students care? 

We know that you have incurred a large debt to attend university. Many of us fought hard against the meteoric rise of tuition fees. But the high fees you pay are not used to pay more to those who teach you. Gaps in gender and BAME pay, casualisation of staff and erosion of staff pensions are part of a decade-long assault on the integrity of universities as public institutions. As a result, we’ve seen the tripling of student fees, a trend toward short-term or sessional contracts at the expense of secure employment, the greater use of outsourcing models  and the ballooning of managerial pay – and with these developments, the persistence of racist and sexist cultures at our university.  

If we want an environment committed to fairness and transparency, where teaching, learning and research – not profit – are at the heart of what we do, then we must collectively take a stand.

How does industrial action affect you? 

Teaching and working with students is why we do this job, so we do not take strike action lightly, any more than nurses or doctors do. After eight days of strikes in November and December 2019, the UCU has called for fourteen more days of strikes in February and March: February 20-21, February 24-26, March 2-5 and March 9-13. On these days:

  • UCU members won’t be teaching, holding office hours, marking or answering emails
  • Any work missed, including teaching, will not be rescheduled
  • Since December 4th, UCU members have been observing action short of a strike (ASOS): this means working to contract, or working only the 36.5 hours per week stipulated in our contracts (most academics work 60+ hours, including weekends)

How can Warwick students help? 

In partnership with Warwick’s Student-Staff Solidarity Network, we will be holding a series of themed events on the picket lines, giving you a chance to join discussions about fees, debt, the future of work and radical alternatives to the status quo. We want you to be part of these activities. Join us! As Emma Goldman almost says, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your demonstration.”

Warwick Students Union voted to support the strikes – as individuals you can too.

If you want to help us stop hugely damaging changes to higher education, here are some ideas:

Remember: the more people support the strike, and the more unified that support, the sooner it’s likely to end.

With that in mind, please:

  • Boycott lectures and seminars on strike days – do not cross the picket line!
  • Join us as sympathetic onlookers/active supporters
  • Help organise alternative student-led events
  • Get in touch with any questions

Solidarity for all – together we can win this!

New Strike FAQ and Guidance for Casualised Staff!

Warwick UCU Strike FAQ and guidance for casualised staff (esp. hourly paid workers)


Version 2: 20/02/2018 (The info here will be regularly updated, check warwickucu.org.uk for updates!) PDF available here.

Please feel free to forward this to any of your colleagues that are not in UCU. Note that, unlike the national FAQ’s, these are not checked by union lawyers. If in doubt, always refer to the nationally available information or double-check with UCU.

  1. I am contracted to teach at Warwick through STP / VAM. Can and should I participate in the strike?

First of all, you have the right to strike if you are a member of UCU, regardless of your contractual status, as long as your contractor is the University of Warwick. This is also clearly stated in the STP Terms and Conditions that are sent out with every contract, under paragraph 19:

“19. Trade Union Membership

You are able to join a trade union of your choice if you wish to do so, and you are entitled to be individually represented by an elected trade union representative.  You are able to take strike action if you choose if there is a dispute between your union and the University, but you must give prior notice if you intend to take strike action as indicated above.” [See point 6 on giving notice]

If you are a UCU member, the union very strongly urges you to take strike action. And there are many reasons for that – some of which we have already addressed in a previous email (see also here for UCU’s briefing note for casualised staff). The key point is that as someone at the beginning of your career, you will be particularly affected by the proposed changes to the pensions scheme), since you will have little to no benefits accrued under the current system. Staff towards the end of their career, on the other hand, are less affected as they will still receive the benefits they have built up under the previous scheme. If you want to find out more about the dispute (and there is still time for that), there are some links in the strike dates and resources document.

We cannot emphasise enough how important this issue is for UCU and for the future of UK Higher Education as a whole. As you will have noticed, the plan of holding 14 days of strike is far more serious that any industrial action UCU has taken in the last decades. This shows the gravity of the issue. Once the defined benefits scheme is closed, it is closed forever and there is no turning back. This is unlike any other dispute we have had. This also raises the stakes of this dispute to an equally unprecedented level. It is very important for this strike to be successful and to have high rates of participation: otherwise, our very ability to put pressure on the employers in any future dispute will be undermined.

  1. I am not a UCU member. Can I also strike?

In order to strike, you have to be a member of UCU. But you can, and in our view should, join UCU. It’s not too late to join now – follow this link: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join, fill in an online form and it is done. You can do it up to the day of the strike, including on the picket line, and you will be covered by the dispute.

As a UCU member, you are protected from victimisation and retaliation, you have access to strike pay, and there are multiple other benefits as well – including and most importantly the solidarity of your colleagues! If you are a postgraduate who teaches, it is free for you to join UCU – but make sure that you join as a full member, not as a student member. If you are a student member but you also do teaching, upgrade your membership NOW to the full membership so you are covered by the dispute and entitled to access strike pay. This upgrade is free if you are a PhD student who teaches. If you are not a PhD student, the membership fee for the lowest earning band is very low – around £1 a month.

  1. I fear that participating in the strike will make me vulnerable towards my head of department. What if they hold it against me next time I apply for a job, or when my contract is up for renewal?

It is your legal right to take strike action, and it is illegal for any employer to use strike participation against you in any way. However, we are aware that theory and practice don’t always correspond, especially for staff on casual or fixed term contracts who might fear that their future employment prospects could be jeopardised if they take action in breach of their contract or that the department management does not like. As a union, we are doing everything we can to make sure that no one can be singled out and suffer repercussions. In particular:

  • Warwick UCU is writing to Heads of Departments to remind them not to use any intimidating practices towards staff in order to prevent them from striking; and to make them aware that the UCU will be monitoring how departments treat staff who take part in the strike. If any evidence emerges that staff who have participated in the strike experience different treatment in the future, or are disadvantaged for future contract renewals, we are telling Heads of Departments that the union will be taking action against these practices in order to protect our members.
  • The Provost has agreed that STP workers and fixed term employees should not suffer any detriment as a result of the strike action and she will reiterate this message to Heads of Departments. We have made clear to the Provost that we will be closely monitoring contract renewal rates in the coming academic year in relation to those who have taken strike action.
  • We are writing to the Vice Chancellor, who has publicly expressed his opposition to UUK’s plans to change the USS pensions scheme, and we have called on him to show his support for the strike by emphasising in his communications with Heads of Department that any mistreatment or intimidation of staff partaking in the strike will not be tolerated.
  • The more of us that take strike action, the less likely it is that individuals can be victimised. We therefore strongly advise you to communicate with your colleagues and your departmental UCU rep and to set up a departmental meeting to prepare for the strike and convince your colleagues to participate. If you need any help in setting up a departmental meeting, write to us and we will try our best to help facilitate a meeting.

 

  1. If I participate in the strike or take action short of strike (ASOS), how much pay will I lose?

This is a very important issue especially for casualised staff – whether hourly paid or fixed term. Staff on regular full-time employment contracts risk 1/260th of their pay being docked per strike day (or a pro rata proportion if they work part time). For hourly paid staff, (STP/VAM), it doesn’t work in the same way. In a meeting with management on Friday 9th February we were told that the procedure they are going to apply is the following: tutors should fill in the time sheet honestly, only for work that they have done, and they will be paid according to the hours they submit. Strike pay deductions will thus be applied on the next relevant monthly payment after timesheets are submitted. That means, of course, not to claim contact hours that have not been delivered; other elements can be claimed if the work has been undertaken.

We have been in contact with HR about clarifying the rules they are going to apply for the way in which time sheets are assessed during the strike – both in communication with tutors and with departments. We have now received the following clarification:

  • Tutors are expected to fill in their timesheets honestly to claim only for work undertaken
  • If strike action disrupts the contact hours, tutors will still be able to claim their preparation time undertaken on a non-strike day, for example in the expectation of the strike being called off
  • Departments are expected to approve of tutor’s timesheet submission along the above stipulations
  • The only potential challenge to this would be if departments receive repeated claims for preparation “where there is clear knowledge that the contact hour will not be delivered’ e.g “during a period of total strike absence“ (quote from HR email).

We have also now received clarification from HR on the question of how ASOS (Action short of strike) will be treated in relation to workers hired on STP/VAM, and whether tutors can / will be expected to reschedule classes:

  • “STP tutors are not obliged to work additional hours to those for which they are contracted when they return from strike action but (as with other staff) HODs or equivalent can legitimately ask that they replace planned work with work to make up lost teaching.”
  • Tutors can be asked, but should not be expected and cannot be required, to do additional (paid)work. This means, for example, that HOD’s can legitimately ask you to teach week 7 rather than week 10 content in a week 10 seminar which would be going ahead (e.g. if the strike is cancelled in week 10). But while HoD’s may ask you to reschedule teaching missed during strike weeks (which then would have to be paid), you are in no way obliged to accept doing so. If you experience pressures to this effect, let us know immediately. HR have also confirmed that once payment has been authorised, there will be no retrospective reductions (or additions).

In addition, we would advise you to use the comment function on timesheets to clarify the way in which the strike has affected your payment each week, both for departmental approval and for hardship claim.

5. Is there a way I can be compensated for my lost earnings?

Regardless of how pay deductions are calculated, we know that for hourly paid tutors and staff on part time / short fixed term contracts the proportional loss of pay from participation in strike action can be much higher than for regular members of staff.

The good news is that there is a central strike fund for those in need (the UCU ‘Fighting Fund’) that you can apply to in order to receive strike pay; and members on casual contracts are prioritised for applications. The link to the rules for applying and to the application form itself are under “Resources” below – make sure to read this before taking strike action. However, the amount that the national strike fund covers is limited to £50 per day starting from the fourth day of strike action (so the first three days are not covered); and to a maximum of £500 per person in total. As per the latest UCU guidance: “Casualised staff who are paid to teach but whose pay also includes allowance for marking and preparation will be paid appropriate strike pay for each day where they can show evidence that they struck rather than worked and where this working pattern is confirmed by the branch”. That also means that each day that you participate in the strike – by not undertaking teaching, marking, preparation, advice duties – will be considered as a day of strike participation for the purposes of the strike pay fund. We have received guidance that there will be flexibility applied in the evidence that casualised staff will be asked to provide to the Fighting Fund in order to show their income losses related to the strike, and that claims will be considered favourably as long as they are supported by the branch – also in consideration of the fact that the earning patterns of hourly paid and casualised staff may vary from month to month for a variety of reasons. Possible forms of evidence could be: a pay slip for the month of the strike showing lower earnings compared to a previous pay slip; evidence of timesheets submitted with no hours claimed on strike days as opposed to other weeks; or a combination of timesheets/ pay slips compared to the hours outlined in your contract (if you are just starting to teach this term and don’t have a previous pay slip to use as a comparison, for example).

We are nonetheless aware that this may not cover the whole income lost by some people; and that this could be particularly disadvantageous for those hourly paid staff who rely fully on the income they earn in term time as they are not paid for non-term periods. To make sure that casualised, hourly paid and part time staff are not disproportionately disadvantaged, we are taking various steps:

  • Warwick UCU AGM voted, on 07/02/2018, in favour of setting up a local hardship fund alongside the national strike fun that casualised members of staff will be able to apply to. Committee is still looking into the practicalities of the fund. AGM has also voted to donate as much money as possible to both the national and the local strike fund, and are looking into ways of raising further funds. We are currently working on detailing the local hardship fund procedures and application processes. We will hopefully be able to circulate guidelines before the strike commences (after the UCU committee will have met to approve); but in the meantime, we can confirm that the local hardship fund will be able to cover (some) of the (some) of the income losses incurred already from the first day of strike participation.
  • Besides all these options, there is an amazing charitable organisation called Education Support Partnership, of which UCU is a major contributor and close partner. Education Support are a one stop call for several issues and hardships, including financial concerns, sexual harassment, stress, working for educators. We encourage members to make use of this resource. We appreciate that you may, as many cases have highlighted, struggle to pay your monthly rent as a result of permanently losing up to half your monthly income during this strike period. Education Support issues grants to educators facing financial and money worries. You can find out everything you need to know about this form of hardship support here: https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/helping-you/apply-grant

The resources below include a link to the rules of application to the strike fund, and some further tips for casualised groups. We are not able at this stage to confirm how long it will take for strike pay claims to be processed. If you envisage that you will be suffering immediate hardship as a result of strike pay deductions, get in touch with the branch. We will try to help by supporting an early application to the UCU national Fighting Fund even in the absence of a payslip from next month showing the difference in income.

6.  What do I tell my students? What if the department wants me to
reschedule my seminar / lecture?

We encourage you to talk to your students about the strike and explain why you are taking action and why this is important. UCU has resources available here (https://www.ucu.org.uk/why-we-are-taking-action-over-USS) to explain the dispute to the students. There are also FAQs for students written by staff at Warwick available here and various amazing resources on the ‘Warwick Student-Staff Solidarity’ facebook page.

The official advice from the union is to not reschedule any classes that are cancelled because of the strike. You are not putting yourself under any risk of breach of contract if you refuse to reschedule a class that was cancelled because of the strike and for which you have not been paid. We know that you might come under pressure from your Head of Department to reschedule your classes; if this is the case, let the union know immediately.  As stated above under point 3, tutors can be asked, but should not be expected and cannot be required, to do additional (paid)work on top of your usual contracted hours in a given week. However, your Head of Department or module convenor can reasonably ask you to cover content from a class that fell on a strike day during one of your subsequent classes in a non-strike week

7. Do I need to notify the employer before going on strike?

  • UCU’s advice for those who are employees (with a full employment contract) is not to notify the employer, as there is no obligation to do so, and notifying them would allow the employer to take action to minimise the strike impact.
  • However, for those who are classified as workers, this is different. STP contracts explicitly ask workers to notify in advance if they will be participating in strike action. The University has unfortunately refused to drop this request which considerably discriminates against STP tutors’ right to strike.

While the terms and conditions of STP do specify that you need to notify your employer in advance, they do not specify who and when to notify. It might be reasonable to expect, however, that tutors follow the stipulations in the contract regarding general absence. These state (terms and conditions, point 10, benefits):

If  for  whatever  reason  you  are  unable  to  attend  work,  you  must telephone your departmental contact or the STP team as soon as possible but no later than one hour minimum before your work on the relevant day is due to start.”

We advise that you call as well as email (to leave a paper trail that you can later evidence). It is up to you whether you do it just one hour in advance of your work on the relevant day, or, say, at 8 in the morning – when it will be clear whether the strike on that day will be going ahead or not.

STP contacts are: Telephone: 02476 524831 and Email: stp@warwick.ac.uk

You can use the template below for your emails:

Dear STP Team,

I herewith notify you that I am taking part in the strike action, called by the UCU, today, [INSERT DATE].

Kind regards,

[NAME]

We’ll be updating our local strike FAQs with the info above asap: http://warwickucu.org.uk/new-faq-and-guidance-for-casualised-staff/

8. Workers/ Employees on Tier 2/4 visas

We have received some inquiries how the strike will affect students / employees on Tier 2/4 visas.

The national guidelines can be found here:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-action-faqs#32

For those whose tier 4 visa is monitored through their student status (which we believe should be the case for the vast majority, if not all, of Tier 4 visas, but we are unfortunately by no means competent on visa issues so please do not rely on our word and check your situation), the University has issued the following guidance:

“Your attendance record should not be negatively impacted where there is industrial action by staff in your academic department. Departments will record the monitoring point as an authorised absence with a note to say that this is due to industrial action.” https://warwick.ac.uk/students/news/newsevents/strike-action-2018/strike-action-faqs  (question 12)

If you have any questions about this, contact us, and preferably the University’s Immigration Service (students) or HR Recruitment and Immigration team (staff) , asap. If you are unsure in any way whether taking strike action will affect your visa status, we would not recommend you to take strike action.

9. OK, I am on board. What concrete steps do I need to take before
the strike?

  • Check that your UCU membership is up to date. This includes making sure you’re a full member, not a student member. Or: join the union if you’re not already a member!
  • Talk to your colleagues and encourage them to join in to take strike action (and to join the union) and to not cross picket lines on strike days.
  • Write to your students encouraging them to support the strike by not crossing picket lines on strike days. An email template for this purpose in the coming days is available on the warwickucu.org.uk/pensions page .
  • Set up an out of office email reply explaining that you are on strike and that you will not be answering emails on strike days, or, even better, that you will be deleting all emails coming in on a strike day, and that emails should be resent on non-strike days.

10. What happens on the days of the strike?

  • Come to the official UCU picket line in the morning! From 8am at the main bus exchange on campus.
  • Don’t go into the office and don’t do any work relating to your employment / contracted work on strike days. This includes administrative work: i.e. not updating tabula, not accessing the University’s email servers, etc. It also means no marking. This is important, as some marking will fall within the period of the strike. UCU policy is to only work 7.5 hours on non-strike days; that means that it is not the intention that employees / workers will catch up with marking and emails on non-strike days through excessive work. If this means that students will not receive their essays back in time, then this is a consequence of the strike.
  • Participation in seminars and events that would be part of your normal work schedule is also covered by the strike.
  • Employees: follow the guidance on notification of participation in the strike outlined in the University’s guidelines on the strike:  https://warwick.ac.uk/insite/news/intnews2/ucu_strike_action_update_and_guidance/
  • STP workers are under current contractual arrangements required to notify in advance, as stated above under 6.

 

11. Keeping in touch during strike days

During strike days, UCU official advice is to refrain from logging on to the University’s email servers. In order to stay up to date with all the strike developments on social media, make sure you follow the Warwick UCU Facebook page‘Warwick Student Staff Solidarity’ facebook page, ‘Warwick Anti-Casualisation’ Facebook page, and the Warwick UCU twitter account  (which is full of great gifs)! We will be uploading any new info on to the Warwick UCU website: http://warwickucu.org.uk, and we’ll continue responding to any queries on anticasualisation@warwickucu.org.uk.

 

Strike Dates

  1. Thursday 22nd February
  2. Friday 23rd of February
  3. Monday 26th of February
  4. Tuesday 27th of February
  5. Wednesday 28th of February
  6. Monday 5th of March
  7. Tuesday 6th of March
  8. Wednesday 7th of March
  9. Thursday 8th of March (International Women’s Day and Women’s Strike)
  10. Monday 12th of March
  11. Tuesday 13th of March
  12. Wednesday 14th of March
  13. Thursday 15th March
  14. Friday 16th of March

 

Resources

General Info:

UCU FAQ’s on the pension dispute: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-action-faqs

UCU briefing note on casualised staff: here

Information on the Fighting Fund and how to apply:

Rules: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/9164/USS-dispute-Support-for-members-taking-industrial-action/pdf/ucu_ussdispute_fightingfund.pdf

Applications for the Fighting Fund: https://ucu.custhelp.com/app/fighting_fund/

Student resources

UCU resources on the strike for students and concerned members of the public:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/why-we-are-taking-action-over-USS

Warwick Student – Staff Solidarity Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/studentstaffsolidarity/

Strike FAQs for Warwick students published in the Warwick Globalist:

http://warwickglobalist.com/2018/02/06/ucu-strikes-members-of-staff-answer-your-questions/

 

 

 

 

 

Warwick students occupy ‘The Slate’ in support of HE

Warwick students have occupied The Slate, the conference facility being built between Scarman and Radcliffe, in protest at the “devastating direction in which education is being pushed and our own institution’s complicity in that agenda” – see https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/statement-of-occupation/#respond

The students’ arguments are compelling; Warwick UCU fully supports their objectives and completely endorses their demands (reproduced below):

  • The University must opt out of the Teaching Excellence Framework;
  • The University must agree to Warwick Anti-Casualisation’s 6 demands for fair teaching conditions;
  • The University must scrap the protest injunction and apologise for their handling of the events of 3 December 2014.

Opposition to the Higher Education and Research Bill is widespread at Warwick, amongst both staff and students.

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/warwick-university-staff-praised-by-students-for-condemning-government-s-green-paper-and-prevent-a6926116.html) and http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/warwick-university-protest-students-block-main-campus-road-in-day-of-demonstrations-against-a6898026.html)

The occupation has already released a statement indicating that this is a direct act of solidarity with staff to fight the erosion to our working conditions that the TEF will entail.

We therefore call on University management to promise no legal action under the injunction and reiterate our request that it be lifted with immediate effect.

In solidarity, Warwick UCU


Update

The Unviersity has posted a response from the VC on the Exec Blog:

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/execteam/entry/occupation_update_/

“We have reached agreement to bring a peaceful conclusion to the student occupation that has been taking place at the University of Warwick since 2 December 2016. Here is my letter to the protesters following engagement between the University, the Students’ Union and the protestors to reach this conclusion.”

The tone of this letter, and its content, is very heartening.  We hope that this spirit of teamwork and collegiality can continue so that all members of the University can work togther to protect our institution from damaging change.

Anti-Casualisation Day

Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC) will be available to speak to in the Piazza today from 11am where they are highlighting the crucial role played by part-time teachers in Warwick.

UCU Warwick supports the work of this group and as today is ‘UCU’s day of action against precarious work‘, we ask that our members encourage all part-time teachers to sign up as UCU members and to visit the WAC website to sign the petition calling for fair teaching conditions.

Teaching conditions vary across the University and some departments may be examples of excellent practice in this area – we would be interested in any examples where members feel that their departments support of their part time teaching staff is exemplary.

These are the 6 demands of the WAC:

1) Hourly-paid teachers must be made employees of the University. Currently, hourly-paid teachers hold the inferior legal status of ‘workers’ but not of ‘employees’. This deprives them, unjustifiably, of the standard employment rights enjoyed by salaried members of staff.

2) Hourly-paid teachers must be paid for every hour worked. Assigned time allowances do not reflect the reality of teaching. As a result, teachers have to work many unpaid hours.

3) Hourly-paid teachers must be paid at consistent and fair rates. Some departments pay different rates for different tasks within the same job, despite them being interconnected and requiring the same skill level. To recognise the level of skill involved in the teaching delivered, we demand a pay rate of at least FA5 for all tasks.

4) There must be pay harmony across departments. At the moment pay rates vary across departments; we demand equal pay for equal work across departments.

5) Compulsory teaching as a condition for scholarships must be abolished. Teaching bursaries are exploitative because they basically require PhD students to work for free. Not only do these arrangements make it hard for postgraduate researchers to meet their actual living costs, but they are also not conducive to the long-term quality of teaching.

6) Hourly-paid teachers should be paid for the hours they spend undertaking teaching-related training. This should include all hours needed to achieve affiliate Higher Education Academy (HEA) status.