Before Christmas, as Warwick Anti-Casualisation we sent an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft, to raise a number of concerns we had around STP and the contracts of hourly paid tutors. We were glad to see an official letter from the man himself appear in our inbox in January 2018. That’s until we read it. Without context, it might seem like the University are doing a stellar job at looking after hourly paid tutors – that the occasional issue that arises is dealt with easily, and that everyone will soon feel the security of an employment contract for their teaching. This could not be further away from the truth. That’s why we thought it’d be a good idea to set the record straight.
RECAP: In January 2017, Warwick Anti-Casualisation met with the Vice Chancellor, Stuart Croft, to discuss the demands made in our petition, Six Demands for Fair Teaching Conditions at Warwick, following Warwick for Free Education’s occupation of the Slate building. The VC made a number of commitments during this meeting, including the extension of the recognition agreement allowing UCU to negotiate collectively on behalf of casualised tutors between the UCU and University. However, by December 2017, progress hadn’t been made on these. WAC returned to the VC’s door , like the Ghost of Christmas Past, to remind Croft of the promises made which were still outstanding. (see our Last Christmas video). Our December 2017 open letter can be found here. Here, we raise two primary concerns: that there has been no progress on the promised move away from casualised contracts; and that STP has not addressed the issue of fair and equal pay and treatment for tutors across all departments. The VC’s response evades these concerns and simply reiterates the same, old rhetoric that we have heard from HR time and time again in these months.
The VC’s letter also does not mention the enormous administrative effort performed by casualised tutors and administrative staff to make the system work a little more to our convenience (i.e. really getting paid), nor does it mention that this is due to our status as contractors who supposedly issue a bill for every hour we work.
It is simply not true that STP has addressed issues around pay equity. Discrepancies continue to exist between departments; many hours of work performed by STP tutors continue to go unpaid. The absurdity of the worker status is not acceptable to us. Not only does it deprive us of rights that employees have, it is a completely asymmetric and unjustified relationship. While we have to bear all the costs of being fully “flexible” according to the University’s needs, with a result of zero job security, we don’t have any benefits of a supposed “flexibility” – our whole “engagement” is scheduled by the department. Our quasi self-employment status is a pure myth and a cheap accounting trick – and the only reason why we have to endure the bureaucratic hour submissions each week, even though they are the same every time, just to maintain the fiction of our supposed freedom to work independently.
We want a recognition agreement before term 3, and we want it to be a recognition agreement according to the best practice standards of UCU rather than the bare legal minimum.
We thought we should publish the letter with some of our annotations, so that you can see how the situation really is: LETTER
Paragraphs highlighted in yellow are more-or-less lifted directly from the STP informational pages. We’ve broken down the letter into sections to offer a response.
In Section 1 you’ll notice that the VC stresses “consultation” numerous times, particularly during Section 1. “The STP concept has been subject to considerable consultation”…”All draft role profiles were subject to University wide consultation”… “These frameworks were subject to a University wide and in-depth level of consultation”. The fallacy here is in assuming that consultation equates consensus, that acceptable working and pay conditions were achieved as part of this consultation. WAC’s Six Demands show that there are many issues which the University has failed to address. While consultation may have taken place, fair conditions have not been the result. Consultation is not negotiation. The one-directional gesture gives hourly-paid tutors no say in the execution of what we have supposedly been consulted on. Too often, for the University, ‘consultation’ just meant continuing to do what they would have done any way, even when STP tutors and, in many cases, departments as well had expressed their disagreement.
Section 2 asserts that a robust resolution route is in place for disputes that arise under STP, and that no disputes have been raised beyond STP Coordinators. We at WAC are constantly collecting feedback from hourly-paid tutors. As we said in our December letter, there have been many instances of late contracts and contracts issued without marking allocations, just to name a couple of major concerns. And time and time again emails from our union representatives raising issues have gone ignored and unanswered. That management is not aware of these huge failings in the system is indicative of the poor quality of the dispute resolution route. As for contacting departmental STP Coordinators, the names of these were only uploaded to the STP webpage at the end of term one – prior to this, there has been confusion with communication even with basic departmental issues.The last sentence in this section also asserts that UCU has not shared any unresolved cases, but where UCU has tried to raise issues beyond individual cases, this went unheard.
Section 3 suggests that pay parity is being met by STP. We disagree – in our December letter, we stated:
“You also promised us that STP would address our concerns about fair and equal pay across departments … In the Sciences, most tutors continue being paid at the unacceptably low rate of FA4. Across the university, tutors who hold PhDs are hired on FA5 roles that do not take into account their professional experience, skills and qualifications; and the absence of pay progression means that year on year, whilst our teaching experience grows, our paychecks remain just as low.”
Evidentially, our concerns have not been heard.
Where our call for change was heard was during October 2017, when it was found that owing to early cut-off dates, tutors would not receive remuneration for their teaching for seven weeks. Widespread lobbying from tutors resulted in “advance” payments being made available. However, the advance payment deadline was early, the terms changed seemingly by the minute (from offering 60% of the expected payment, to just £100) and needless bureaucracy led to these advances being inaccessible for many people. The original name of “advance hardship payments” showed no understanding of the issue, treating it in the same way in which regular staff, under exceptional circumstances, would claim payments before they deliver work, whereas in this case it was simply a matter of not having to wait two months for payment – clearly quite a different scenario. In addition. Section 4 of the VC’s letter recognises the issue with payroll cut off dates, but makes no reference to the extensive lobbying that went into the University taking action on this.
Section 5 asserts that UCU were invited to attend the weekly operational meeting group at this term’s JCC (Joint Consultative Committee). As far as we know, this invitation was not formally extended to the UCU’s anti-casualisation representatives, but was only mentioned in passing. STP forums may have (finally) begun in some departments, but these are not the opportunities for accountability we hoped they would be; instead, we’ve heard reports of a lack of tutor awareness and staff interest in them.
Moving on to Section 6, the VC references “other potential models of engagement for sessional teachers” outside of STP. He doesn’t make it clear what “models of engagement” he means here. We don’t want Unitemps, or TeachHigher…we want employment contracts. In our December letter, we said:
“You promised us that the University was committed to putting in place a process through which hourly-paid teaching could move away from its current model of widespread casualisation, towards a system where all tutors are entitled to secure employment rights.”
Outside of Stuart’s brief reference to “other potential models of engagement for sessional teachers”, there isn’t any indication that progress has been made on this.
While there’s a reference to “recognition of hourly paid staff” in the final paragraph, we’re confused as to why the recognition agreement with UCU, which is currently under revision to include workers,hasn’t been explicitly mentioned. Progress on the recognition agreement is moving very slowly, and we fear that the delays are used partly to play off against each other hourly paid tutors and regular employees, who are currently on a dispute with University to combat planned reduction in employment protection and academic freedom in Statute 24.
The VC’s assertion that consultations took place while STP was in development fails to understand that, during its pilot and now rolled out across the institution, STP itself, and the mechanisms surrounding it, are the problem. We reiterate the points made in our December letter – tutors are still lacking fair working conditions, and promised progress to amend this is not being made.
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