Staff at Queen Mary’s have launched an anticasualisation campaign demanding pay for all hours worked at London Living Wage and contract uniformity. Isabelle Leach reports
Queen Mary’s launched its own anticasualisation campaign amongst hourly-paid lecturers on Tuesday night with representatives across the Humanities and Social Sciences departments.
Feyzi Ismail and Fiorella Picchioni from SOAS’ Fractionals for Fair Play campaign opened the meeting with an outline of their successful (and ongoing) campaign and the approaches that they took to challenge the pay and working conditions of hourly-paid and fractional staff.
FFFP recognised that they needed empirical evidence of a range of contracts to frame the campaign, expose the exploitative working conditions and put pressure on management.
As with many universities, the union and HR were unable to provide a comprehensive list of fractional staff, so campaigners individually approached different departments to talk to and encourage members of staff to complete the survey and get involved the campaign.
Gaining three fractional representatives on the UCU branch executive at SOAS was an important first step. After building up a large and solid base of fractional staff who were ready to take action over contracts, securing the support of both a number of permanent staff and many students, they organised a wild cat marking boycott to bring management into negotiations.
These negotiations resulted in multiple gains, including a £150,000 pay out to staff new contracts and a vibrant and democratic campaign on campus, which has since inspired campaigns against casual contracts at other universities. However, negotiations are ongoing since the FFFP deems the new contracts woefully inadequate because they fail to address the structural precarity of fractional staff.
By combining sustained engagement, recruitment of campaigners and gathering support from student and permanent staff, the fractionals were able to undertake a range of action and displays of creative resistance. The threat to disrupt the university open day significantly escalated the negotiations and demonstrated the extent of the fractionals’ collective power.
The new UCU anti-casualisation representative at Queen Mary’s, Rob Waters, introduced the renewed campaign by UCU to challenge casualisation and the group discussed the success of the SOAS campaign by working within and outside the union to achieve the aims of the campaign.
Representatives from Geography, English, Drama and Politics shared information about their hourly contracts and the extensive list of tasks that are not included in the paid hourly rate.
From this discussion, demands such as pay for all hours worked at London Living Wage and contract uniformity across the school were brought forward for consideration.
Working groups were established and the campaign will distribute a survey of staff contracts in the coming weeks, along with regular meetings for anyone interested in the campaign. With lessons and successes from SOAS FFFP and support from union and non-union members of staff, the campaign at Queen Mary’s can fill the gap that the UCU marking boycott suspension has created for action on campus.
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