By Tom Mitchell
Durham University and the UCU have reached an agreement regarding the future of casual work at the University.
A joint statement released by the two sides of the dispute said: “The University will review our current casual staff and, where appropriate, will transfer these staff onto employment contracts. It is anticipated that this will realise a significant reduction in colleagues engaged on casual contracts.
“We achieved this through industrial action”
“At any time, casual staff may ask that their status as a casual worker be reviewed. Going forward, the University will proactively monitor and manage the use of casual contracts.”
In 2018, the University claimed that it would stop employing staff on nine-month contracts, following a protracted campaign by ‘Durham Casuals’, a group set up to combat the casualisation of staff in the University.
Later the same year, the UCU revealed that over half of Durham academics were employed on insecure contracts.
An academic that plans to strike told Palatinate: “Some members of our branch were on zero hours teaching contracts for up to nine years in one case. Hourly paid and short-term contracts which provide no job security are a source of anxiety and both emotional and financial stress.
“They mean people cannot plan for their futures – having a family, buying a house, receiving long-term medical care – all of these things are impossible on zero hours or short-term contracts. We know this because these are our colleagues, our friends and our partners.”
The joint statement also says: “There will be equality of opportunity, with all roles advertised and a transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory recruitment process followed.”
In October, Palatinate revealed that only 7% of Durham staff are BAME, despite BAME candidates making up 23% of job applications.
The UCU and ‘Durham Casuals’ claim the statement represents a major breakthrough in one of their so-called ‘Four Fights’ against casualisation, low pay, changes to pensions and excessive workloads.
“Durham Uni has worked with us to make real pro- gress on job security, pay, and working conditions”
Dr Laura Chuhan-Campbell, Assistant Professor (Teaching) in the school of Modern Languages and Cultures, tweeted:
“Durham Uni has worked with us to make real progress on job security, pay, and working conditions for precarious staff. We achieved this through industrial action. It works. We can’t stop now though – workload, pensions and pay are still on the table.”
The statement concludes: “Durham UCU and Durham University are very pleased to have worked together to reach such a positive understanding, and look forward to the approval of specific recommendations and implementation for the 2020-21 academic year, along with further discussions related to fixed term and other casual arrangements.
“Further joint statements between UCU and the University will be issued as we make more progress.”
Illustration: Katie Butler