The planned 20 % cuts to Queen Mary budgets have highlighted the stark divisions between working conditions for permanent and fixed term staff. While redundancies might follow, the first victims of the cuts have all been valued and essential staff on fixed term contracts. To be clear this is not just affecting a few students earning ‘pocket money’ while they finish their PhDs. The rise of the casualised contract in Higher Education means that PhD students and post-doc academics may have to rely on these jobs for many years. And if your sole source of income comes from working at Queen Mary as an hourly paid Teaching Associate, Teaching Fellow or as a Lecturer or Research Associate, or Professional Services staff on a part-time contract, and your annual salary is below the threshold of £17,640, it is very likely that you are living in relative poverty. If that has been your situation for 2 of the last three years then you would also be considered to be living in ‘persistent poverty’. In 2018/19 Queen Mary issued 980 Teaching Associate and Teaching Fellow contracts who between them shared the equivalent of 182 full-time posts. That is an average salary of approximate £6,400 per person.
We support the Corona Contract
The Corona Contract is a grass roots national campaign to extend all fixed term contracts in Higher Education for a minimum of two years in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. On April 30, at a well attended meeting QMUCU voted unanimously to adopt our own QMUCU Corona Contract. https://qmucu.org/2020/05/01/qmucu-passes-emergency-corona-contract-motion/
We support 100 % Furlough
QMUCU support the use of furlough to cover 100 per cent of the wages of applicable staff through the employer top-up of the government scheme. You may already be aware of the ongoing dispute between QMSU student workers and QMUL over the continued institutional resistance to furlough struggling staff. We are also aware that some UCU members have already lost out on pay or expected pay, for instance due to marking that you were promised being reassigned, demonstration activity cancelled, or summer school cancellations. Many UCU members are additionally facing an uncertain future as Queen Mary refuses UCU requests to furlough staff who may be soon losing work as well. Queen Mary has encouraged student workers facing financial detriment to get in touch. Whether you are a student or not, if you feel you have not been properly paid for work you would have undertaken in the lockdown period (or expect to experience this detriment over the summer), please contact email@example.com and cc UCUfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Birmingham UCU have published excellent guidance on why and how furlough can be used by universities to protect jobs. https://birminghamucu.org/2020/04/27/arguments-for-using-the-furlough-scheme-to-keep-fixed-term-staff-in-jobs-in-universities/
Support for Permanent staff
Many staff are being pressurised to take on the work of their casualised colleagues who will end up losing their jobs. We have published guidance on how permanent staff can support casualised staff here:
Support for staff on fixed-term contracts
Contract Advice for staff on casualised contracts facing a non-renewal of contract.
1. Check your contract(s).
If you don’t have a paper record then hunt them out in your emails and print them and keep them in a folder. Check how many years of continuous service you have accrued and check that the start date of continuous employment on your current contract is correct. Continuous employment is not broken if you change roles, take on an additional role, or switch departments so long as your employer was always Queen Mary. If you have been employed for two or more years then get in touch with QMUCU via email@example.com. Also check what, if any, objective justification is referenced in your current contract as the reason why you have been issued with a fixed term (and not permanent) contract. Check that you are on the correct grade and spinal point. Check the hours are correct. If you find any errors then contact HR and notify them of these errors. Cc UCU (Ucufirstname.lastname@example.org) https://my.ucu.org.uk/app/answers/detail/a_id/296/~/continuous-service
2. Do you have a right to a permanent contract?
Have you held contracts with Queen Mary for 4 or more years? If you are employed to teach and your only gaps were over the summer when no teaching occurs, you may still be eligible. If so then write a letter to HR asking for confirmation of your permanent status – cc us via Ucuemail@example.com A model letter is available here https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/3567/Fixed-term-regulations-requesting-confirmation-of-permanence
3. Is your work continuing?
Have you been notified that your contract is not being renewed, but the work you normally do is going ahead – it is just being given to someone else? If you know that your teaching or other tasks have been reallocated to another member of staff then let us know with details of your department and your contract via firstname.lastname@example.org.