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.
Are you a TA, an hourly-paid lecturer, or a demonstrator at Queen Mary? Or is your teaching or department supported by these staff? If so, QMUCU wants to hear from you!
Hourly-paid Teaching at Queen Mary: Open Meeting
Wednesday 2 December, 1-2pm, Arts One 1.28 all welcome
There are hundreds of hourly-paid staff at Queen Mary who are vital to teaching in the college. As you may know, their hourly rate has remained the same since 2008. QMUCU campaigned last year for a pay rise to proportionately match those of permanent and fixed term colleagues, but our request was unsuccessful. The college has agreed, however, to review pay, terms and conditions of hourly-paid teaching staff with an aim to implement changes in time for the beginning of next academic year.
We want to hear from you about your experiences of hourly-paid teaching at Queen Mary to inform upcoming negotiations with the college.
Whether you are an hourly-paid member of staff, a PhD student, or a permanent or fixed term colleague, please join us in discussing how we can help improve pay and conditions for these important groups of staff.
While there are well over 600 hourly-paid teachers at Queen Mary, these staff are currently under-represented within UCU membership. Please help us reach out to them by circulating this meeting date in your department. All members and non-members are welcome.
QMUCU Branch Committee
An article by Holly Else in Times Higher covering many local anti-casualisation campaigns, including Qmac, came out today:
‘In addition to doing their research, they are trying to prepare an undergraduate lecture, devise a reading list for a related seminar group and worrying about when they will get time to mark the ensuing pile of essays. But such is life for those who hope to boost their employment prospects by taking on a graduate teaching assistant role.
Nor do GTAs necessarily move on once they have secured their doctorate. Many early career academics continue to piece together a living on several fractional or hourly paid teaching contracts to keep their toes in the waters of academia while they fish desperately for a fixed-term position.’
‘At Queen Mary University of London, the Queen Mary Against Casualisation (QMAC) group formed after individuals met at an event held by FFFP in November 2014. One complaint of the group is that hourly paid teachers at the institution have not had a pay rise since 2008, and a campaign to push for one is now under way with the local branch of the UCU. A statement from the group says that PhD cohorts “are often treated as a source of cheap labour” and frequently bear “large responsibilities [for] teaching on core undergraduate modules, without adequate pay or training”.’
The article also covers other campaigns across the country, including Kings And SOAS, and is well worth a look, tracing the extend of casualisation across HE but also the extent of mounting resistance:
Another article in TH today might also be of interest, quoting FACE, regarding the problematics of naming Hourly Paid Lecturers for what they are. One of QMAC’s campaign aims is to have our designation changed from ‘Assistant’ to ‘Associate’ as it currently is on the Queen Mary University website. If calling us simply lecturers would serve to dissimulate the extend of casualised labbour across campus, ‘Teaching Assistant’ does not reflect the amount of (often free) work we do, our investment in developing the curriculum and can damage job prospects:
You may be wondering what it is we’re after. So here’s a useful summary of our aims.
- Good, paid training for all hourly-paid teaching staff (Teaching Associates, Visiting Lecturers and Demonstrators) – as a guideline, School of English and Drama offers £200 for two full days in addition to unpaid training opportunities throughout the year.
- Disaggregating marking from the inclusive hourly rate, so hourly-paid teaching staff are paid for marking per paper and according to word length (as is already the case in the School of Business and Management), or appropriate equivalent if assessments are practice-based.
- Clear job descriptions for all hourly-paid teaching staff.
- Demonstrators paid for preparation (we suggest an hour of preparation for every hour of contact time). We should also minimise use of the demonstrator rate, and ensure that if staff are being asked to perform Teaching Associate roles, such as leading seminars, they should be paid accordingly. In addition, we could recommend the Doctoral college implement a system of monitoring use of demonstrator rates and what tasks they are being asked to perform.
- Staff at all levels should have access to necessary resources. Hourly-paid staff should be provided with functional office space both for preparation and for holding private office hours with students (current facilities are found to be inadequate).
- In the long term we want to see hourly-paid roles fractionalised for more stability, and more permanent positions, as in the case of staff who are staying on years beyond the completion of their PhD on precarious hourly-paid contracts.
- Parity with permanent colleagues on terms and conditions where possible, including learning and development opportunities. This includes access to professional development appraisals, funds for conferences other external training and networking opportunities, and necessary materials.
- Short-term and hourly-paid contracts are shown to have adverse effects on the diversity of staff in the sector; obstacles to career progression for women, black and minority ethnic and disabled academics require active consideration by the college.
Graph showing real term losses for QM TAs since 2009
For a much clearer graph, please click below:
QM Teaching Staff Wage from 2009
Hourly-paid academic teaching staff at Queen Mary are currently on the same wage as they were in 2009. Having lost out on almost 5% of pay rises to salaried academic staff since then, these statistics show how wages for all academic staff are declining in real terms, with the lowest paid being hit the hardest. This graph shows how the gap between the cost of living (the Consumer Price Index) and the income of hourly-paid teaching staff at Queen Mary is growing at an alarming rate. It would take a 15 or 16% pay rise this year for hourly-paid teaching staff to recover even the same position they were in 6 years ago. Even that would not repay the lost wages from pay rises that were not paid in the intervening years. Queen Mary Against Casualisation call for an end to these poor labour conditions. Together we can win better working conditions for staff, a better education for students, and a more sustainable and diverse university environment. Join us!
The KCL GTA campaign has just issued a press release about their appalling working conditions. Please spread the word. It is clear that it is vital to reverse the trend of hourly paid labour across London and UK universities now: