UCU Special HE sector conference: protecting GTAs work and acknowledging PGRs as members of staff

At our last branch meeting, on September 16th, the branch approved, with none against, a motion to be submitted to the UCU special Higher Education sector conference (HESC) taking place on September 30th. This motion calls on UCU to include demands that Graduate Teaching Associates’ work occur on contracted basis in our national bargaining, and was prepared by PandemicPGRs, a cross-UK group of PGRs which was formed as a response to the crisis and its impact on the PGR community in the UK.

This motion was moved by QMUCU at the UCU HESC on September 30th, and successfully carried, alongside a clarification amendment made by UCU Sheffield. The carried motion reads as follows:

HESC notes that during Covid-19 GTAs were most at risk of job loss and uncertainty. These did not appear in statistics due to the nature of casual contracts. Further, UCU’s and Pandemic PGRs’ surveys revealed inter- and intra institutional disparities of contractual agreements across the UK. This lack of transparency and accountability is a key contributor of casualisation within the sector over which UCU is in dispute with the employers in its Four Fights campaign.

HESC resolves:

  • to include demands that GTA work occur on a contracted basis in our national bargaining
  • that GTA contracts include an appropriate workload allocation mechanism, guarantee that all GTAs are paid at the appropriate grade for the work they are conducting; receive paid training, and have access to the same rights and entitlements as all permanent members of staff
  • To ensure all labour is paid for what it is worth and ensure scholarships do not have an unpaid work requirement in line with UKRI policy.

QMUCU is also very happy to report that a motion to ‘Acknowledge postgraduate researchers as members of staff’, submitted by the University of Glasgow and also prepared collectively by PandemicPGRs, has been carried:

Covid-19 exposed the contradiction of PGRs being viewed as students rather than staff. Open letters revealed that like staff’s, PGRs’ work was affected by the pandemic, however, because of their student status PGRs were unable to access neither employer nor government support such as benefits and furlough. Instead of being paid for their work, PGRs pay to do the work on which Universities and companies’ profit. This is contrary to practice in other sectors (graduate training schemes) and countries, where PGRs would not be seen as students, but workers. The unpaid research labour of PGRs cements the expectation of unpaid labour throughout academic careers, which contributes to the workload and casualisation crisis in the sector.

HESC resolves to establish a principle that acknowledges original postgraduate research as labour like any other work at universities and resolves to campaign for PGRs to be recognised as members of staff.

For more on PandemicPGRs and its national campaigns, please follow @PandemicPGRs, sign up here , or contact Salomé Ietter (s.a.ietter@qmul.ac.uk), your QMUCU PGR representative. Please also reach out to our local PhD Organising group at QM for joining our campaigns and getting support @QueenMaryPhDs or here ().

For more on the UCU special HE sector conference, please visit: https://www.ucu.org.uk/hesc_sept20 or contact the QMUCU delegation to the conference. (ucu-coordinator@qmul.ac.uk)

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