QMUCU response to “Guidance on TA and TF contracts for 2020-21”

Please find below QMUCU’s response to new guidelines issued by QMUL Senior Management to line managers regarding the employment of Teaching Associates and Teaching Fellows in 2020-21.

Organisational change:

The premise of this guidance appears to be that fewer TA and TF appointments will be made for the coming academic year because of financial pressures and “current controls on recruitment”. To make up for an anticipated reduction in TA/TF appointments, we have seen several Schools are proposing increased workloads or significant changes to workload models for permanent T&R/T&S staff, and also changes to module availability. These have been accompanied by statements from the Principal and managers that “unfunded” research activities should cease, with more time being devoted to teaching. These changes to working practices at QMUL for academic staff will be widespread and far-reaching. These guidelines therefore appear to reflect organisational change which should be formally consulted upon in line with collective bargaining arrangements. The Guidelines relate to workload allocation and manpower so they should be a matter for negotiation, not just consultation and they need to be incorporated into the Reorganisation, Redundancy, Redeployment Policy and Procedure.

Redundancy and Redeployment:

This document gives zero consideration to the employment rights of TA/TFs who are currently working at QMUL. PhD enrolment has no bearing on the accrued employment rights of existing employees. This raises a number of considerations in employment law:

  • If a fixed-term contract is being renewed for a fourth year, the employee has a right to a permanent contract unless a good objective justification is given.
  • If a fixed-term contract comes to an end after two years of service and is not renewed, this is a dismissal and can only happen for fair reasons.
  • If the employee has one year of service, a written statement of reasons must be given for a non-renewal of contract.

As stated in previous correspondence, the possibility that large numbers of these fixed-term staff will be dismissed by reason of redundancy which creates an obligation to consult under TULCRA s.188. The fact that this guidance does not mention these issues is concerning, as it seems to make a large number of redundancy dismissals a fait accompli without consultation.

There is also no mention of redeployment opportunities which should be given to staff being made redundant elsewhere in the organisation. At the very least, the guidance should encourage staff to make use of the redeployment register and internal advertising when making TA/TF appointments. There should also be a link to the redeployment form and information on how redeployment works.

Priority for PhD students:

The guidance suggests that TAs/TFs in pool 1 (current research students) will be given special consideration for appointments. This would very likely mean that many staff who are not or who are no longer research students will be dismissed simply for this reason. This is not a fair reason for a dismissal so prioritising PhD students in this way would be unlawful and also raises issues about age discriminiation. Equality impact assessments are needed and proper monitoring of potential impact.

Furthermore, current PGR students do not seek TA roles simply because they “wish to gain teaching skills and experience”, but because they are in desperate need of income and financial support. Providing PGR students with an income cannot come at the expense of the employment rights of other staff. Instead, QMUL should support PGR students by providing blanket extensions, direct financial support, and (where relevant) visa assistance as they have requested in their open letters to the Principal. This is especially urgent for unfunded PhD students and students in their fourth year of study.

Pools 3 and 4:

This part of the document refers to a need to appoint “experts for focused contributions to our vocational education” and individuals with “skills that are required to provide an outstanding, inclusive, world-class education and student experience”. These are vague expressions with no defined criteria. It is not clear how this will be demonstrated or who will judge the business cases other than the Principal.

Training:

It is likely that any TA/TF appointed for the coming academic year will need to engage in online teaching. Teaching online using the tools that QM provides will be incredibly challenging for many experienced classroom teachers, and especially in the case of PGRs with limited experience. This will require additional training, and yet the document makes little mention of this other than to say that QMUL will “train and mentor them in a cost effective manner”. Will additional hours of training be provided for online teaching? Will this additional training be paid?

Workload and stress implications:

There is no mention of the workload implications of making Teaching Associates and Teaching Fellows redundant or how the risks of this should be assessed. Given the already high workloads and stress faced by staff due to COVID-19 (e.g. home-working, online teaching conversion, caring responsibilities, illness), there is a serious risk to staff mental health and wellbeing if workloads are further increased. The workload implications of appointing fewer TA/TFs represent a hazard which should be risk assessed following the HSE Stress Management Standards approach. Moreover, the stress caused by management’s approach at this time will have a significant impact upon the mental health of individual TAs/TFs, who are being left in fear of unemployment by QM at the worst possible time. The lack of a clear timeline for issuing TA/TF contracts means that this stress will continue (and, realistically, increase) for some time to come.

Teaching Fellows:

This document does not discuss a specific approach to Teaching Fellow roles which are generally only given to staff with PhDs. Nor does it differentiate between the use of TFs in QMUL generally and the use of Teaching Fellow roles in SLLF and Law which differ from their use in other faculties and departments.

Fixed-term Lecturers:

This document does not discuss an approach for renewing fixed-term Lecturer contracts, which are in use in several Schools. However, the implications raised by fixed-term lecturer redundancies (e.g. equalities, knock-on effect for workloads) are substantially similar to those raised by redundancies for Teaching Associates and Teaching Fellows. Why have these staff not been included in these considerations? How does QMUL propose to address this issue?  Para. 11 of the ‘Code of Practice on the disclosure of information to trade unions for the purposes of collective bargaining’ covers our request for information on casualisation which relates to manpower as well as workload allocation (s. 178 TULR(C)A 1992). QM UCU are still waiting for a full response to this.

Casualisation:

This document does not reference the request from UCU to review the 2016 Assimilation Agreement for TAs and TFs and Demonstrators and review the position of Fixed Term Research posts and Fixed Term Lecturer posts and other casualised staff at QMUL.

QMUCU has requested this review to take place as a sub-committee of the JCF or as a Working Group that should come out of the Covid-19 JCF. Proposed Terms of Reference are below (appendix 1).

We are also still awaiting for the full response to three requests for data to enable us to assess the scale and relative proportions of the numbers of staff in casualised posts at Queen Mary, which we first requested on 22 October 2019, 23 January 2020, and 20 April 2020 respectively (see appendix 2 – as stated in para. 11 of the ‘Code of Practice on the disclosure of information to trade unions for the purposes of collective bargaining’).

QMUCU, 6th July 2020

Appendix 1: Terms of Reference: Anti-Casualisation Covid-19 Working Group

Purpose: To reduce our reliance on casualised forms of academic labour and improve equitable access to work experience for casualised staff, specifically in the context of Covid-19.

Objectives and Activities:

To review:

1. data on the employment of academic staff on temporary contracts at QMUL, by grade, FTE and the type of work undertaken.

2. data on the employment of doctoral researchers by QMUL, by grade, number of hours and the type of work undertaken.

3. how work is advertised and allocated to doctoral researchers and what provisions are in place for training and support with managing paid work and study.

4. existing policies, procedures and other mechanisms for recognition, reward and career progression for academic staff on temporary contracts.

To make recommendations on improving:

5. equity in access to, allocation and management of paid work opportunities for doctoral researchers, as part of their doctoral training.

6. the management of people on temporary teaching and research contracts, with a particular focus on career development, inclusion and agency.

7. pathways to permanency, building on the work done to date on putting in place the Assimilation Agreement.

Membership:

  • one member of staff from each of the following categories: a TA on a fixed term contract, a TA on a permanent fractional contract, an TF on a fixed term contract, a TF on a permanent fractional contract, a lecturer on a fixed term contract (T & S)
  • a PGR representative from the Students’ Union
  • at least one representative from QMUCU (including one anti-cas Rep)
  • one representative from UCU Regional Office
  • at least one senior representative from HR
  • A management representative from Research and Innovation
  • A management representative from Student Experience Teaching and Learning

Outputs and Timeframe:

  • to produce a set of recommendations for short, medium and longer-term actions in the context of Covid-19 and in the context of no detriment.
  • to work as a task and finish group to an end of August deadline, to be able to bring recommendations before the end of the academic year.

Appendix 2: Outstanding Data Requests:

Outstanding Request 1: Sent on 22 October 2019

For the purposes of local collective bargaining concerning the terms and conditions of research staff and T&S academic staff, please could you also send us annual headcount and FTE figures for the most recently available five academic years for the roles of:

  • ‘researcher’ (any research contracts may be combined)
  • teaching and scholarship lecturer
  • teaching and scholarship senior lecturer
  • teaching and scholarship reader
  • teaching and scholarship professor

We would also like to see the above figures, where possible, disaggregated by:

  • Employment mode (Fixed-term/Temporary, Open-Ended, Permanent/Indefinite)
  • Fractional contract size (broken into quartiles categories: <0.25, 0.25-0.49, 0.50-0.74, 0.75-1)
  • Faculty
  • Department
  • Grade
  • Spinal Point

We would last like to receive any documentation used by QMUL HR to determine which specific ‘research’ job titles are used for which roles. Our own audit of QMUL research staff (below) appears to show QMUL has at least 15 posts which use the term ‘Fellow’ or ‘research/er’ or ‘postdoctoral’ or a combination, but we are unclear what, if any, consistent policies are applied in selecting amongst these titles:

1. BA Postdoctoral Fellow

2. Early Stage Researcher

3. Honorary Research Fellow

4. Marie Curie Experienced Researcher

5. Postdoctoral Research Assistant (PDRA)

6. Postdoctoral Research Associate (also PDRA)

7. Postdoctoral Research Fellow

8. Postdoctoral Researcher

9. Research Assistant

10. Research Associate

11. Research Fellow

12. Senior Research Fellow

13. Teaching and Research Fellow

14. Teaching Fellow (formerly Associate Lecturer)

15. Visiting Research Fellow

 

Outstanding Request 2: Sent on 23 Jan 2020

For the purposes of local collective bargaining concerning the terms and conditions of teaching staff currently on T & R and TPP academic contracts, please could you send us annual headcount and FTE figures for the most recently available five academic years for the roles of:

  • Professor
  • Reader
  • Senior Lecturer
  • Lecturer

We would also like to see the above figures, where possible, disaggregated by:

  • Employment mode (Fixed-term/Temporary, Open-Ended, Permanent/Indefinite)
  • Fractional contract size (broken into quartiles categories: <0.25, 0.25-0.49, 0.50-0.74, 0.75-1)
  • Faculty
  • Department
  • Grade
  • Spinal Point

 

Outstanding Request 3: Sent on 20 April 2020

SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHING

For the purposes of local collective bargaining concerning the terms and conditions of teaching only staff, please could you send us the annual headcount and FTE figures for the most recently available five academic years for those teaching summer schools in the roles of:

  • Teaching Associate
  • Teaching Fellow
  • Any other teaching-only job title used for summer school staff

We would also like to see the above figures, where possible, disaggregated by:

  • Employment mode (Fixed-term/Temporary, Open-Ended, Permanent/Indefinite)
  • Fractional contract size (broken into quartiles categories: <0.25, 0.25-0.49, 0.50-0.74, 0.75-1)
  • Faculty
  • Department
  • Grade
  • Spinal Point

LENGTH OF CONTRACTS

For the purposes of local collective bargaining concerning the terms and conditions of teaching-only staff, please could you send us data on the contract lengths for the most recently available five academic years for the roles of:

  • Demonstrator
  • Teaching Associate
  • Teaching Fellow

We would like to see these contract lengths disaggregated by above role and month-length of the contract for each academic year available (ie: How many Teaching Associate Contracts were issued in 2016/17 for 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,and 12 months).

PhD GTAs

For the purposes of local collective bargaining concerning the terms and conditions of teaching only staff, please could you send us annual headcount figures and employment status for the most recently available five academic years for the roles of:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistants (those who teach as a condition of PhD funding provided by QMUL)

We would also like to see the above figures, where possible, disaggregated by:

  • Faculty
  • Department

We would also like to request any policy agreements regarding the funding and employment conditions of these teaching staff pertaining: specific teaching hours/duties covered by their agreement, parental/maternity/adoption leave, illness leave, and holiday entitlement.

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