As you may know, ten days ago it emerged that, due to the arbitrary cut-off dates set by Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP) to process claims and issue payments, tutors that began teaching in October would not receive any payment for their work until the 24th of November. In practice, this would have meant tutors would have been working for 7 or 8 weeks before being paid. This is because the STP stipulated that timesheets had to be submitted by the 6th of October in order for teachers to be paid by the 24th of October. The problem with this is that the 6th of October marked the start of term, meaning that many teachers had not even begun teaching at that point!
In response to this ludicrous state of affairs, the University College Union (UCU) complained to the STP team, pointing out the unfairness of this system. As a result of this lobbying and of the many complaints by angry tutors, the STP team initially agreed to allow teachers to apply for ‘Hardship Advance Payment’ (a ridiculous and insulting name, considering that our ‘hardship’ is being caused by the University’s unwillingness to pay us our wages on time) which would allow them to receive some of the money that they are owed before the 24th of November.
On the notice published on the STP website on Monday 23rd October, it was originally stated that “individuals can apply for an advance of 65% of the value of timesheet that were submitted on time and authorised by the department (or up to £100)”. All tutors concerned, and UCU alike, interpreted this as meaning that tutors would be allowed to claim 65% of the value of the hours submitted and authorised up to that point – or up to £100 in case the 65% amount was lower than that. Not ideal, but better than nothing, we thought!
The story did not end there, however. The notice on the STP website was changed retroactively on Wednesday 25th of October (still stating the 23rd of October publication date, however – cheeky!). Without any transparency or any apparent rationale, the wording of the announcement was modified to state that the amount of money available to each teacher was to be capped at £100.
For many teachers, some of whom have families to support, this is a meagre sum of money to live on until the end of November. To make matters worse, the STP team has given teachers only one week to submit claims for Hardship Advance Payment, with a deadline of Monday 30th of October. In addition, the procedure to submit a payment claim has not been properly publicised. No email has been sent around to inform teachers of the coming delay in their remuneration, nor of the possibility of applying for this advance payment.
UCU and the SU complained again to HR and the STP team, asking for the £100 cap to be lifted and for the 65% threshold for advance payment to be applied with no capping. After a lot of emails ignored, selective silences and follow-up phone calls, HR finally responded to UCU on Friday 27th of October, agreeing for the £100 cap to be lifted and stating that tutors would be able to claim up to 65% of timesheet value submitted and approved by their department up to and including the 15th of October. They also agreed to move the deadline to apply for the advance payments to Wednesday 1st of November at 5pm. Whilst it is positive that the £100 cap has been removed following pressure from UCU and the SU, the deadline of 15th October as cut-off point to calculate the advance is yet a new arbitrary requirement, that was never mentioned in any of the previous communications or notices. So what is the University playing at? It appears that every time that we raise our voices to complain, they shift the goalpost so as to avoid having to pay us what we are owed.
This story does not end here – take action now!
At the time of writing (Monday 30th of October), still no update has been published on the STP website about the new terms and conditions and deadlines to apply for these advance payments. UCU has communicated to its members about the updated guidance received from HR on Friday 27th, but still no information has been made available by the University to its workers. As always, hourly paid workers are left in a limbo where they are denied not only fundamental employment rights – such as the right to receive payments on time – but also the basic courtesy of receiving clear information and being treated in a transparent and dignified fashion. As Warwick Anti-Casualisation, we see this as yet another episode testifying to the contempt with which the University of Warwick treats its most vulnerable workers. The very fact that this measure has been named a “hardship advance” payment is insulting – as it implies that the University is doing us a courtesy by granting us some pocket money “in advance”, rather than acknowledging its failure in setting up a payment system which is fit for purpose and aligned with the timings of term time!
The advice we would like to give is that those who want to should apply for an advance payment equal to 65% of the hours worked and submitted so far, ignoring any arbitrary “cap”. If the administration decides to withhold or unfairly cap the pay that we are rightfully entitled to, shame on them – but let’s not do their dirty work for them!
For those interested, the payment claim form can be found hidden away in the Human Resources website next to a short (and still incorrect) explanation: https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/humanresources/internal/payroll/stp/announcements/?newsItem=8a17841b5f2acca4015f48dc9a9a68ee
If you have submitted timesheets and these have not yet been approved by your department, write to email@example.com and the union will help you to chase this up.
We would also like to encourage all hourly-paid teachers to write to the STP office at the Human Resources department to complain about this outrageous mismanagement of our wages and disregard for our working conditions: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are going to submit an advance payment claim, you can use the following template to express your disappointment, or just make up your own!
“Dear STP team,
My name is X and I am a STP tutor in X department.
Thank you for your response to concerns about income insecurity of STP tutors before November. However, calling this a “hardship advancement payment” is insulting. £100 is not adequate remuneration for the hours and effort I have spent on teaching in the past few weeks, and more importantly, the actual amount that I deserve. As a responsible employer, paying employees in a timely way is not a mercy you do, but your obligation.
Attached is my payment request form, please process the full amount of pay that I am entitled to as soon as possible. I am CC’ing the UCU and the SU in this email for their information.
I look forward to hearing from you.”
Feel free to CC your Students’ Union Postgraduate Officer (email@example.com) and the UCU’s anti-casualisation representatives (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, we would also like to encourage you to join UCU if you have not already (it is free!): https://www.ucu.org.uk/join.
And of course, join us! Like our Facebook page (‘Warwick Anti-Casualisation’) and help us fight against insecure working conditions, and come along to our next organising meeting. It’s only by keeping up the pressure that we will make progress!