6 demands 5 months on: some victories achieved and the road ahead

It was only last December that Warwick Anti-Casualisation delivered our “6 Demands” petition, complete with more than 1,100 signatures, to University of Warwick management. In the five months since submitting our petition, there has been important progress. We met with Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft to discuss our demands; as a result of the petition, University and College Union (UCU) has begun working out a recognition agreement that will allow hourly-paid teachers to be represented by them; and we have worked hard with the SU and UCU to ensure that the voices of hourly-paid tutors were heard in the formulation of the new Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP) framework. Right now, the University of Warwick’s STP Steering Group is meeting to decide on the new Sessional Teaching Payroll framework, which will apply to all hourly-paid tutors at Warwick from the next academic year. So what has happened with our six demands?

While it is certain that the campaigns of the last five months have made a significant contribution to improving the position of sessional teachers at Warwick, we must not delude ourselves into thinking the battle is over – there is still a great deal of work to do, because most of our basic demands for fair teaching conditions remain unmet. And this is the current balance sheet of our 6 demands when compared to the new framework.

Demand 1: “Hourly-paid teachers must be made employees of the University. Currently, hourly-paid teachers hold the inferior legal status of ‘workers’ but not of ‘employees’. This deprives them, unjustifiably, of the standard employment rights enjoyed by salaried members of staff”.

Current status: There has been zero progress on this fundamental and basic demand. Even under the new STP framework, hourly-paid teachers will still be hired through so-called contracts for services. This deprives teachers of employment rights such as job security, payment for training, sick pay, pensions, maternity leave, and year-on-year pay progression.

Demand 2: “Hourly-paid teachers must be paid for every hour worked. Assigned time allowances do not reflect the reality of teaching. As a result, teachers have to work many unpaid hours”.

Current status: After the very vocal outcry regarding this issue, from casualised teachers, the Students’ Union, and UCU, there has been some welcome progress on this issue in the new STP framework. However, the results are mixed and vary across different faculties.

Arts and Social Sciences:
One additional hour of advice and feedback will be paid to hourly-paid teachers (two hours for every two seminar groups of less than 25, with double rates for larger groups).The pay rate for essay marking will be increased, to one hour of pay per 3000 words.

However, exam marking will not improve – under the proposed new STP framework, it will remain at one hour paid per six hours of script. Furthermore, this will not address the fact that teachers are not given additional payment for written exam feedback, which is required by some departments. Teachers will still be forced to complete this extra work in their own free time.

Laboratory and Mathematical Sciences:
There has been some progress in the Laboratory Sciences guaranteeing certain levels of preparation. However, in the Mathematical Sciences preparation time and marking rates remain completely at the discretion of these departments. While flexibility is required for varying lengths of assessments, the level of permissible variation leaves students with no guarantees that they will receive sufficient time allocated to do the necessary work. There has been no concerted effort within departments to ensure that marking rates are appropriate. Furthermore basic principles adopted for the Arts and Social Sciences have not been taken on board for the Mathematical Sciences. This clearly undermines the whole purpose of STP, which was to harmonise teaching practices across the university, which in turn threatens that teachers in some departments will get a worse deal than others.

Demand 3: “Hourly-paid teachers must be paid at consistent and fair rates. Some departments pay different rates for different tasks within the same job, despite them being interconnected and requiring the same skill level. To recognise the level of skill involved in the teaching delivered, we demand a pay rate of at least FA5 for all tasks”.

Current status: We have seen some important progress on this demand, as all tasks within specific jobs are now paid at the same rate. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Certain teaching roles in the Sciences will still be paid at FA4, despite requiring advanced, university level skills. We continue to argue that this is unacceptable.

Demand 4: “There must be pay harmony across departments. At the moment pay rates vary across departments; we demand equal pay for equal work across departments”.

Current status: Unfortunately, pay harmony across departments still does not exist. Some roles in the sciences will still be paid at FA4 rather than FA5. Furthermore, in the Sciences, departments will continue to have the power to assign paid preparation and advice and feedback times at will, which will lead to further discrepancies in pay.

Demand 5: “Compulsory teaching as a condition for scholarships must be abolished. Teaching bursaries are exploitative because they basically require PhD students to work for free. Not only do these arrangements make it hard for postgraduate researchers to meet their actual living costs, but they are also not conducive to the long-term quality of teaching”.

Current status: There has been mixed progress on this demand. At first glance, it appears that teaching bursaries have truly been abolished – but this is misleading. The new framework rules that teaching must not be part of any research related bursary or scholarship, but that payment for teaching must instead be outlined separately. So far so good. However, as the framework does not stipulate the minimum amount of money provided by research bursaries, this leaves open the possibility that departments will merely lower the amount of funding attached to scholarships and thus force PhD students to take up teaching anyway in order to get by. For teaching to truly be a choice, research scholarships need to be set at a level that allows for a decent standard of living; for example, equivalent to the RCUK level.

Demand 6: “Hourly-paid teachers should be paid for the hours they spend undertaking teaching-related training. This should include all hours needed to achieve affiliate Higher Education Academy (HEA) status”.

Current status: Through sleight of hand, the University has failed to address this demand. While the new framework does state that all mandatory training will be paid, it sneakily defines the basic teaching training that every teacher must undergo as a mandatory “transferable skill” workshop. Additional training will only be paid if departments have additional training requirements, such as briefings on specific rules regarding marking and feedback. The key teacher training will continue to be completely unpaid. This demonstrates that the University is either not interested in offering its students well-trained teachers, or is hoping that hourly-paid teachers will complete the necessary training in their own free time.

Without the pressure applied by hourly-paid tutors, the SU and UCU, no progress would have been made and the STP framework would be much worse than what is currently on the table. We are proud of the concessions that WAC’s campaign has been able to extract, and we owe all of our supporters a big thank you for helping us to get to this point. The road ahead, however, is still long. WAC will continue to organise and agitate until all our demands for equal pay, real employment contracts and fair working conditions for sessional teachers are met.

Together we can win – watch this space and message us to find out how to get involved!

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