Winning fractional contracts for hourly paid lecturers in post-92 universities

9 February 2017 | last updated: 12 July 2018

The recent furore around the HE sector's endemic use of casual contracts shows no sign of dying down and UCU will be doing everything in its power to keep this issue firmly in the public eye. Obviously we want the sector to embrace widespread and fundamental change, but in the meantime, this public profile represents vital leverage for our branches.

As we've reported on this site, UCU branches are picking up the challenge and arguing that universities need to put their house in order by negotiating better contracts for their hourly paid staff. Some post-92 universities, like Coventry University appear to be intent on introducing even worse contracts for many of their hourly paid staff, putting PhD students who teach onto agency worker contracts, employed by one of their own subsidiary companies. Others appear more willing to engage.

At Anglia Ruskin University, the UCU branch began its work back in 2013, capitalising on the profile of the issue of zero hours contracts to press their employer using a twin track strategy: on the one hand the branch argued that the employer must tackle the conditions of hourly paid lecturers, while on the other they argued for more to be converted onto fractional contracts. They've made great progress on both fronts. 'Associate Lecturers' now have the opportunity to undertake paid training and CPD courses, including access to ten annual funded places on the PGCert on teaching in HE.

In addition, anti-casualisation reps have paid time for union duties. Similarly, more than 50 associate lecturers have been transferred onto fractional contracts in the last two years. The branch are continuing to press for more improvements and the issue remains firmly on the agenda, but they are making steady progress.

At Bournemouth University, UCU and the employer began negotiations in 2015 on a new agreement that would offer more hourly paid lecturers the chance to move onto fractional contracts. In December last year, this agreement was finally signed and will be implemented from February. Hourly paid lecturers who are working for the equivalent of 0.2 FTE (I day a week) will have the opportunity to move to a fractional contract, and will have support and development in meeting the lecturer role profile and securing a PhD where they don't already have one. 

This agreement could directly benefit around 40% of Bournemouth's hourly paid lecturers. In addition, the branch believe that the agreement will help them to ensure the incremental progression up the pay spine of those hourly paid lecturers who remain or who choose not to move to a fractional contract.

Neither agreement 'ends' casualisation and in both cases, the branches continue to monitor the agreements they've made and to refine their work on the issue. But they do show that branches who engage with the national strategy and build local campaigns and negotiations can win major successes on behalf of casualised staff.

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