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.