At a well-attended emergency branch meeting on 30 April, QMUCU members discussed the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having (and is likely to have, moving into the next academic year) on casualised staff at QM. Having heard from the inspirational Aimée Le, one of the organisers of the national #CoronaContract campaign, as well as a variety of permanent and casualised members from across the university, an emergency Corona Contract motion was unanimously passed. It calls for a two year extension for all staff on fixed term and casualised contracts
Corona Contract Motion
Casualised workers make up approximately 70% of researchers nationally in HE, and between 25-30% of the teaching staff in many universities. Like everybody, casualised university workers are struggling with the global crisis brought on by COVID-19, and are particularly likely to see our contracts terminate (while our Vice Chancellors are continuing to pay themselves salaries of £253,000 on average — many much more — from taxpayer money). There is no indication that this pandemic will be over any time soon, and some estimates suggest it could affect us up to 18 months or longer, which will take us through the next academic year at least. This does not even reflect longer-term economic impacts beyond the immediate tragedy of the pandemic itself. While this crisis continues, casualised staff members across the university — often the lowest paid on campus — must not be forgotten, and should receive guaranteed income along with permanent staff.
This branch recognises:
- That universities have already agreed to address casualisation due to the inordinate amount of suffering it causes, which will only be intensified by COVID-19.
- That casualised staff whose contracts are ending will find it almost impossible to secure employment during a global pandemic, especially when university hiring is frozen as it currently is.
- That this risks decimating the capacity of casualised and/or early career scholars, with no guaranteed ‘return’ to academic work. This will disproportionately impact women, BAME, disabled and working class colleagues.
- That casually employed university workers (including hourly paid staff, fixed-term staff, and PhD students/GTAs and those employed by external agencies, including the NHS) perform crucial, often poorly compensated, work, and deserve the same security as permanent colleagues, including contract renewals, extensions, or continued pay for the duration of the crisis.
- That departments are going to need increased capacity as a result of the crisis, given potential illness of colleagues and the switch to remote working, making the work done by casualised staff even more essential.
- That the threatened loss of casualised staff would exacerbate existing workload issues for all staff, including permanent staff, which would also impact on their research capacity and career progression.
- That casualisation is something experienced at different levels by all staff, so laying off the most casualised staff will increase the precarity and casualisation of those that remain, including permanently employed colleagues.
This branch therefore demands an immediate contractual guarantee of two years of work at or above the current level of remuneration, for all casualised university staff.
This branch resolves to:
- Call on members to support the @CoronaContracts campaign and to sign the national open letter on casual contracts: https://coronacontract.org.
- Call on Queen Mary to support and implement guaranteed employment for two years for all casualised staff, including those within the professional services, and, if necessary, to seek to apply the government’s job retention scheme to all eligible staff, which must be topped up by our University to cover 100% of wages.
- Call on Queen Mary to reverse the blanket recruitment freeze and freeze on contract extensions and renewals over the coming months.
- Call on our University to reverse the decision to force staff to make business cases to the principal for marking work for this year’s new assessments.
- Call on Queen Mary to enter into full and open consultation with UCU on any proposed redundancies, including redeploying staff instead of terminating them, and to confirm that staff on fixed term contracts will not be discriminated against or automatically dismissed.
- Call on Queen Mary to transparently disclose financial models upon which decisions about job losses (including contract non-renewal) are predicated.
- Call on members to refuse additional workload created by the removal of casualised staff.
- Call on Queen Mary to negotiate any workload increases created by changes to job roles caused by the pandemic with UCU.
- Call for protections for postgraduate students including extensions of scholarships, protections around access to paid work, suspension of fees for self-funded students and students in their fourth year of study, and to suspend deadlines and annual reviews.