In preparation for the meeting, it would be great if TAs could hold smaller meetings in their departments if possible, to look at any internal discrepancies. It would also be useful if i could get some sample contracts from different departments in advance, both this year’s and last year‘s so we can go through them and estimate losses and gains in advance of the meeting. Please send these to firstname.lastname@example.org. If people are uncomfortable sending them through with their names, we are happy to look at anonymised contracts. We will be listing complaints to bring to HR via UCU. Further to this,and whilst we hope that this will be an opportunity to assess the contracts themselves, we really hope to have the time to discuss possible organising strategies, and a coherent plan for these.
Please circulate this information within your individual departments to TAs who might not yet be on the Qmac or QMUCU list.
Thursday 26 was the second of UCU’s two day strike, and was the day chosen to focus on fighting casualisation in the sector. Following a call from FACE, we decided to take a stand for a fairer public university, linking casualisation to the gender and racial pay gap. We asked casualised staff, permanent staff and students to express what casualisation meant to them. Here are some of the answers we got:
‘if our fees have gone up why not your wages’
‘casualisation harms education, students and teachers’
‘casualisation lowers your self esteem due to injustice and disrespect’
‘casualisation is another name for exploitation’
‘casualisation disadvantages women, people of colour and working class people’
‘Casualisation means not being able to pay my rent and do my job well’
‘casualisation means stress, anxiety and poverty’
‘casualisation damages learning, careers, lives…’
‘I’m tired of TA/VL’s passion for teaching being exploited, not recognised in our pay’
Copied below is FACE’s original call out to take a stand against casualisation as a means of fighting inequality in Higher Education. If you want to continue supporting the ongoing struggle against casualisation in HE, please tweet @FACEanticas @QmacQm and @UCU what casualisation means to you and/or why we should fight it.
We are taking a stand for an equal & inclusive public university
We are striking to resist the casualisation and scandalous gender and racial pay gap in higher education, as well as the derisory pay offer offered by UCEA today, that is significantly less than inflation. Although presented as separate issues, they are intimately linked and have wide-spread implications for students as well as staff.
What is casualisation?
Recent research by UCU estimated that 48.7% of staff across UK higher education are employed on some form of casual contract. This means almost half of the people who make our universities run lack job security. What does this mean? Casualisation describes the growing trend employers hiring employees on insecure and atypical contracts – hourly paid, fixed term, and fractional. Casualised staff are often poorly paid, lack holiday and sick pay, don’t receive a salary over the summer months, and are often not paid for time spent preparing lectures and tutorials, meeting and emailing with students, and marking.
What has this got to do with equality?
We are striking to close the gender pay gap, and FACE thinks UCU should explicitly tackle the racial pay gap too. Whilst casualisation is a scandal across the board, it disproportionately affects women and people of colour. In 2016, the gender pay gap in higher education was 12.6%.Two further TUC reports also showed that women and people of colour were also disproportionately employed on casual contracts. This has created issues around access to maternity, care, and sick leave, the ability to secure a tenancy or mortgage, and compounds issues around promotion and career progression for women.
What does this mean for students and staff?
Casualisation is a key factor that keeps women and people of colour out of academia. At present, there are currently only 17 black female professors in UK higher education. This impacts not only the diversity of staff as such, but also the diversity of education itself. At a time where students are challenging the whiteness of the curriculum and their teachers and fighting back against sexual harassment on campuses, the continual exploitation of people of colour and women by employers send suggests that the University is not listening. A fair pay deal will benefit staff across HE institutions, but the fight against casualisation and unequal pay is a fight for an inclusive and just university for everyone.
If we want a better and fairer university, we must eradicate casual contracts and persist in guaranteeing accessibility to equal pay and opportunities for all.
Dear Queen Mary Students
The University College Union (UCU) has called a national strike for 25-26 May, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Many academics and support staff will be cancelling all teaching, administration and office hours on both days. This is a way to put pressure on universities to meet our demands.
Why is the strike happening?
Ultimately the strike is about the future of higher education across the country. In particular, lecturers are making three key demands.
Doesn’t a strike just hurt the students?
It is not the intention of your lecturers for their industrial action to impact adversely on their students, and we do all we can to ensure this doesn’t happen. Just like the junior doctors, sometimes it is necessary to withdraw our labour temporarily to demonstrate to our employers what an important job we do all day every day. The aim of the strike is to ensure better quality education for all involved, in a university that actually puts gender equality into practice, so that students can be well taught by lecturers who are given adequate time to prepare for classes and receive a fair wage in return.
Lecturers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions!
It’s austerity, everyone’s taking a pay cut
Except they aren’t. At QM, there are 116 staff earning over £100,000. While a small number of these may be big shot professors in certain areas like medical or scientific research, the vast majority are not academics. The average salary of university Vice-Chancellors is now more than a quarter of a million pounds. Simon Gaskell’s salary was revealed to be £284, 000 earlier this year. There is plenty of money on universities’ balance sheets, including Queen Mary’s. They’re just not spending it on academic and support staff!
What students can do
You can sign this petition, organised by a group of students nationally https://www.change.org/p/petition-support-fair-pay-for-our-university-staff
On Wednesday and Thursday the UCU will be asking everybody not to cross the picket line. A picket line is a symbolic barrier. When a picket line is in place your lecturers (who are on strike) ask you not to make use of university buildings or services. Whether or not to cross a picket line is entirely your decision. We ask you to make sure, however, that it is an informed decision.
On strikes in previous years, many students came themselves to the picket line as supporters, to show their solidarity with the staff and discuss our mutual goal of securing quality and freely accessible education for all, provided by well-paid and valued staff.
(thank you to collagues from UCL and Warwick for the help on this letter)
One of the reasons we fight is because we care about the quality of our teaching . QM HR continually devalues us through not paying us enough or treating us properly. Lying about Hourly Paid representation and refusing us a minimum framework is just the latest instance of QM’s total lack of regard for hourly paid teaching staff. If you are a student and would like to support us because you want those who teach you to be treated fairly, there are some things you can do. You could download the image below, print it and take a picture of yourself with it, tweeting it @QMUL and @QmacQm. Or you could just tweet the image by itself. You can also talk to your friends and spread the word, we need as much support from students as possible! We value our teaching and solidarity with students means a lot to us.
Queen Mary is one of the worst institutions in the country for its reliance on casualised teaching staff. 66.1% of teaching at the university is delivered by staff on precarious contracts. This is precisely what QMAC have been campaigning against over the last two years.
Queen Mary university has finally decided to review some hourly paid teaching staff’s pay and conditions, and accepted the need to integrate them into the pay spine — something that should have happened 8 years ago.
Whilst QMAC welcomes the decision to treat us like any other employees of the university, there are some worrying developments in the manner in which HR are proposing to implement these changes. Previously TA pay was paid on a 2.5 multiplier — meaning that the pay for each hour of teaching was multiplied by 2.5 in order to accommodate preparation and marking. The university is now proposing to leave the individual Teaching and Learning Committees of each Department to decide how to weight the different aspects of TA and Associate Lecturer pay (preparation, marking, teaching, administration and training).
They are proposing to do so with no minimum framework in place to implement across all departments. They are also not requiring individual departments to consult with hourly-paid Teaching Associates and Visiting Lecturers during this process, or create representative positions that could help shape the way departments calculate how much work goes into each task. This is unacceptable.
A lack of minimum framework with no consultation of hourly paid staff makes departments entirely unaccountable and leaves the system open for abuse. With the reluctance we have seen in particular schools to implement hourly-paid representatives this bodes badly for workers. It is also a hypocritical move by the university, who originally delayed our integration onto the pay spine in 2015 after claiming they intended to first harmonise working conditions across departments. Whilst different fields do demand different approaches to teaching, the lack of a minimum framework is a very worrying development.
Responding to concerns about the lack of minimum framework, Alastair Kelly, Deputy Director of HR, responded that ‘many Teaching and Learning Committees have hourly-paid representation’. We already know this is not the case, but as some hourly paid staff queried this with Teaching and Learning Committees, they were informed that new contracts were the responsibility of HR. This at shows, at best, the absolute lack of oversight by HR regarding the implementation of their own proposals.
Queen Mary is also leaving out an entire category of Hourly Paid teaching staff: Demonstrators. Demonstrators also need a pay rise, and deserve proper contracts rather than the current informal agreements, which are ripe for exploitation. Demonstrators who responded to QMAC’s survey last year often reported hourly pay well below the minimum wage in real terms.
In light of this, and of our ongoing demand for FAIR PAY FOR ALL HOURS WORKED and EQUAL TERMS, we reject Queen Mary’s proposal as it stands, and instead ask for:
If you are a student or staff at QMUL and think this is unfair, you can let QMUL know through sharing this post and letting your feelings known on social media
We’ve been plotting to start the year in style, as negotiations may go underway pretty soon on our pay and conditions. All the quotes on the posters are from our TA survey from last year, expressing how most of us feel in precarious academic work.
ALL WE WANT FOR 2016 is:
FAIR PAY FOR ALL HOURS WORKED
BETTER JOB SECURITY
MORE TRANSPARENT CONTRACTS
BETTER PAY AND EQUAL TERMS
And just like the posters, QMAC is not going away.
Happy New Year!
by one QMAC TA (with some help by colleagues) — views their own
A few days ago, Guardian Higher Education posted an article bemoaning that the £ 9, 000 fee hike was turning students into customers expecting lecturers to be at their beck and call. It mentions conversations with colleagues that apparently reveal a widespread attitude of disrespect, students calculating the hourly cost of a lecture and demands of good grades for attendance alone. As an hourly paid TA, I opened the link quite excitedly, expecting a critique of the entirely preposterous workload heaped on academics the pressures of rising student debt, and the general marketization of UK education’s impact on inspiring and constructive learning environments. Instead, all I read was a frustrating attack on supposedly entitled students with the only solution offered being answering their consumerist demands with snarky responses. Throughout the day my social media timelines were awash with approving links to this article in a way that, despite myself, started to increase my anger at the simplistic, and entirely ungenerous approach to the issues caused by increased fees. An increase that will, at the minimum, place large numbers of students in over £ 27, 000 debt as they exit university and enter an increasingly insecure job market, a market that also affects me as a present and future university worker.
Above all, as an active member of Queen Mary Against Casualisation, fighting for better working conditions for one in three workers in higher education who hold non-permanent contracts, what annoyed me the most was the lack of interesting and fruitful approach to the problem of consumer based education. I am talking here about an approach that emphasises the conditions of work in the university and beyond, shifting emphasis away from blaming students towards a way of discussing together what exactly the problems of UK higher education are for all of us who are not in management. The blog post has prompted me to write about how conversations about work, workload and cost can be integrated as a pedagogical method in higher education, a method which may counter the increased reification of education through a discussion about this reification.
There is a lot to be said about the contemporary pressures heaped on academics and students alike in the UK right now. As pointed out in this blog on global politics, despite wages falling in real terms, ever increasing casualisation across the Higher Education sector and catastrophic pay negotiations, academics continue to be perceived as relatively privileged workers. More worryingly, the countering of this narrative has been slow, and discussions with students patchy, which may in part have helped clarify why fees bear little relation to lecturers and teaching associate’s pay. Whilst fees have gone up, so have precarious casualised employment practices for teaching and research staff and real term wage losses for permanent staff. On the other hand, social and mainstream media discourse is increasingly painting students out to be consumerist ‘mollycoddled brats’ who do not understand the value of debate and only want to be spoon fed familiar subjects. Identifying these discourses in articles not unlike the one that prompted me to write this, Sara Ahmed identifies how many such enunciations appear to lay the blame squarely on students whilst harking back to a university of the past which was fundamentally a bastion of racism, sexism and class privilege (not that it’s looking that much better now). The upcoming possibility of implementing the Teaching Excellence Framework does also not bode well, for teaching quality or fee increase. It’s looking bleak all round. Yet, as educators, are we not, at least in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, in an ideal position to think about how conversations about our work with our students might bring about a relationship of solidarity rather than antagonism? Maybe it’s because as soon as I started teaching that both on campus and nationally the fight against casualisation in HE started to gain momentum, but it makes sense to me that talking about our work conditions is an excellent teaching tool. Indeed in a transferrable skills obsessed environment, in which Arts Education must constantly and relentlessly justify its purpose through market adaptable skill sets, I hope that talking about my own conditions might help students reflect on and organise around their own.
Last year myself and a colleague from another university went to speak about casualisation at the Goldsmith’s student occupation, an action prompted by the cuts to student support services including dyslexia and disability and counselling services. What we realised, in the first instance, was that our experience as hourly paid teachers spoke directly to the working situation of many students participating in the occupation. With maintenance loans barely covering rent (landlords in the area had clocked how much the loan was), many people we spoke to worked various zero hour contracts on top of studying full time in order to sustain living in London. Many of them understood exactly why we were worried and anxious about our job prospects, and empathised with how some of us felt constantly overworked. After all, they felt the same – they were protesting the counselling services being shut, services that might support them cope with the mounting stresses of being a student. I have seen first hand the effects this stress can have on students. Mine and colleagues experiences of students reveals levels of anxiety and overwork which lead to lack of sleep, emotional turmoil and physical symptoms.
However, many students coming straight from school misunderstand how exactly the university functions for the workers within it. I remember that way into my undergraduate degree I used to imagine lecturing as some sort of dream job. As a friend of mine put it ‘a bit aristocratic, sitting around thinking about things.’ A Kant in Königsberg sort of set-up. What research might mean practically as a job, let alone the terror that is the REF, is not something I expect 18 year olds to magically understand as soon as Freshers week is finished. Again here is where demystifying the university itself as a workplace might help. Being in a field that I would wager remains attentive to structural inequalities and materialist concerns, using the neoliberal university as a constant example in seminar discussions, as means of also having meta-level conversations about our relationships as educators and students can work on pedagogical and political levels. These are also conversations that might lead to reflections on about their own work places. Because most of them do work.
When I’m teaching I always start the first class with a conversation about emails. However, I always try to frame it in a way that isn’t about chastising them about daring to bother me after 6pm or on weekends. Rather, I ask them to consider why I am asking about this? Why might it be undesirable for me, but also them, to be available at all hours, never mind what Jo Johnson says? I am lucky to be teaching subjects which leave a lot of room for tying academic readings to contemporary apparatuses and ideologies. I give them articles to read about unpaid internships and protest by cleaners, asking them what is valued in different people’s assertions about these? What and how is work valued, and why should we accept it? Reification is a difficult word to grasp, but the worsening of the university space into an career and outcome focused environment for them and for me also provides the easiest way to depict its meanings. I also get to class early and speak to students in the corridor and as we are leaving the room. Objectively yes, this could be perceived as more work, but in the longer term it is also a rapport of friendliness, honesty, openness and hopefully solidarity that might pay off in the long run. When students and teachers alike can discuss struggling to pay the rent and the extra work they’ve both had to do on the weekend, maybe misunderstandings such as depicted in the Guardian article could be avoided and our teaching and learning environments can develop into politically and socially dynamic spaces that look for commonalities in our differences.
At Queen Mary, as part of attempting to expand these conversations, a group called Material Matters has been set up as an initiative to create conversations between staff and students about contemporary issues – including work. The next one will be held on the 28 of January at 18:30, and will discuss the precarity of work we all find ourselves in. QMAC will be part of this conversation, and we would urge any of our supporters, whether students, permanent staff or academic support staff to join us in hopefully finding ways to fight together rather than each other. See you there!
We would like to state our solidarity with the students currently occupying London Metropolitan University’s Cass building in protest against the selling off their Aldgate campus. As a group of casualised university workers, we are outraged by the course closures and job losses that will result from the ill thought-out move to the Holloway campus and the impact this will have on staff and students alike.
It is imperative to show support to those who are most affected by the mismanagement and profit driven solutions implemented by university management, particularly as attacks on Higher Education (HE) continue, resulting in the steady increase of casualised and insecure jobs across the sector and the cutting of courses across many universities in the UK. Invariably, as we can see at the Cass, those who bear the brunt of these measures are working class and POC students who comprise a large number of those studying at London Metropolitan University, due to its history and location. The specific cutting of arts courses also contributes to making the artistic and cultural sector the preserve of economically and culturally privileged individuals.
We are concerned about the job losses for those who already find themselves in precarious employment positions, such as technicians and casualised teaching staff, but also permanent employees. As we fight for improvement in our own working conditions at Queen Mary, another local campus, we understand the pressures felt by colleagues now facing unemployment in a climate where job security across the HE sector is declining.
Finally, we want to express our solidarity with the staff and students of the Cass specifically as students and staff also based in Tower Hamlets, one of London’s poorest and unequal boroughs. The proposed sell-off of the Aldgate campus as prime property development to cover the debt accrued by London Met’s management is not only a cynical move against its own students, but also against the local populations facing displacement and destitution through the obscene financialisation of the London property market – a situation higher education institutions should refuse to participate in.
We wish the current occupation and all of the on-going campaigns all the best chances of success. Solidarity from QMAC – Queen Mary Against Casualisation.
Information about the GTA Pay campaign at KCL
A network of casualised academic workers organising for grassroots action and fighting for better conditions. Join us!
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