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Exeter is latest to abandon use of 'workers' for postgraduate teaching

20 September 2018

Exeter University has become the latest elite university to change tack on its use of 'casual worker' arrangements for the employment of its postgraduate hourly paid teachers.

Under pressure from the UCU, the university announced that postgraduate students who are engaged on regular/pre-scheduled work will now be employed on annualised contracts of employment to 'ensure equality of treatment with other colleagues on similar working patterns'.

As the university's statement admitted, this will mean that postgraduates will now have access to proper paid training and induction, that they will have access to other university benefits like the sick pay scheme and that they will be entitled to become members of USS. Exeter UCU have welcomed the move but the union noted that it does not yet cover all hourly paid teachers and warned that they will continue to press for improvements to pay, conditions and contracts at the university.

Exeter's move follows a series of UCU campaigns that have produced agreements at leading universities, including the Russell Group's universities of Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh. In each case, the union targeted the use of casual worker arrangements and argued that hourly paid teachers should be put on proper employment contracts which give them access to employment rights.

As UCU analysis has shown, the Russell Group are some of the worst offenders in using worker arrangements to employ teaching staff. More than half of all the sector's atypical teaching staff, for example, are employed in the Russell Group. UCU has served notice that campaigning to change this is a priority within its wider campaign against casualisation.

With Exeter joining the list of universities moving away from the use of workers, it's time other universities got on board and started to negotiate with UCU. Our campaign is getting results and building momentum, with more branches submitting local claims to win employment status and better pay and conditions for hourly paid staff. Watch this space for more soon.

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