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Message for members on fixed term, hourly paid employment contracts

As the academic year draws to a close, here is a message for all members and colleagues who are currently employed on a fixed-term, hourly paid contract i.e. a contract that has a fixed end date or will end on completion of a specific project or the occurrence of some other specific event. The message is in two parts: One is to impart information and advice to members; the other is a request for further information from members.

The imparting of information point relates to the terms and conditions of those who are engaged on fixed-term hourly paid contracts and, in particular, how these compare with the terms and conditions of colleagues on permanent contracts. UCU’s view is that the terms in associate lecturer and similar hourly paid contracts that relate to pay, cancelled classes, holiday pay, sickness absence, maternity provisions, and termination are all less favourable than the equivalent provisions within the contract of employment of a comparable permanent employee.

Under the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, employees who consider that their fixed-term contract terms treat them less favourably than comparable permanent employees are entitled to request from their employer a written explanation of the reasons for this treatment. The advice to colleagues in this position is to write (the request must be made in writing) to the University requesting a written statement of the reasons for this less favourable treatment as regards the terms of their contract. You are entitled to receive a written statement of these reasons within 21 days of your request.

For colleagues who have been working for ARU, or one of its associated companies, on a series of fixed-term contracts for a continuous period of more than four years (normal vacation periods do not break continuity), the same Regulations mentioned above provide that, on the next renewal of a fixed-term contract after 4 years, the contract should have the time limiting date or event removed and the employee should be regarded as a permanent employee, unless there is an objective justification for retaining the fixed-term contract. Employees who are in this position are entitled to seek from their employer a written statement either confirming that they are now a permanent employee or the reasons why the contract remains fixed-term. The advice to colleagues in this position, therefore, is to write to the University requesting such a written statement. You are entitled to receive a written statement within 21 days of your request.

We should sound a note of caution on this point. We know from recent interactions with the University that it takes the view that all the Regulations require is the removal of the time limiting date or event – all the other terms and conditions of the contract remain precisely the same, including all those terms considered ‘less favourable’ than a comparable permanent employee as mentioned above. This view is correct on a literal interpretation of the Regulations. This means that becoming ‘permanent’ may not be suitable or advantageous for some colleagues – in effect, they will be on a permanent ‘zero-hours contract’ – so you are encouraged to weigh up the pros and cons for your individual situation before making a written request. UCU takes the view that, whilst technically correct, the University’s position is not within the spirit or objectives of the underlying legislation, or its own policies, and may put the University in breach of other employment legislation. We are currently seeking to persuade the University to take a more purposive approach in interpreting the Regulations and to assimilate the position of former fixed-term employees with that of full and part-time permanent staff. Your requests under the Regulations will be of great assistance in this campaign.     

Requests for written statements about either the contractual terms and conditions, or the transformation of fixed-term contracts to permanent ones, or both, should be sent to the newly appointed Director of Human Resources, Janis Westley (janis.westley@aru.ac.uk).

The request for information part of this message is in relation to holiday pay. There appears to be quite a confused picture, both locally at ARU and nationally, about how Universities deal with the issue of holiday pay for employees on fixed-term contracts, especially associate lecturer and other ‘hourly-paid’ contracts. It would be of great assistance as part of our ‘anti-casualisation’ campaign if you could let us know how your holiday pay is dealt with.

ARU’s current associate lecturer contracts provide for payment of holiday pay as a ‘rolled-up’ payment at a rate of 15% of the standard hourly rate within each payment made to hourly paid employees. Is this how your holiday pay is dealt with in practice? Do you book holiday periods through Business World and/or your line manager? Do you receive a separate payment for holiday pay during those booked periods of leave? Do you receive a separate payment for holiday pay, regardless of whether you have booked this? If you do receive separate payment, how is this calculated?

Any information that you are able and willing to share with us should be sent to your local branch Casework Co-ordinator, Andy Noble (andrew.noble@aru.ac.uk), or Anti-Casualisation Officer, Meena Singh (meena.singh@aru.ac.uk).

If you require any further advice in relation to your terms and conditions of employment, or your position if/when you receive a reply to any requests for written statements made to the University, please contact Andy Noble as above.

UCU declares dispute with Anglia Ruskin University over wellbeing and health and safety

Despite our numerous attempts to reach an amicable settlement, the position adopted by the University leaves us with no choice but to hereby give notice to Anglia Ruskin University that under the terms of our Recognition Agreement, an official dispute is declared with immediate effect. Under the terms of Dispute Resolution in our Recognition Agreement with the University, we demand that we move straight to Stage II and thereby convene the Joint Consultative and Negotiating Panel. See latest correspondence here and links to crucial documents.

UCU call for urgent negotiations with ARU Management

UCU at ARU have called for urgent negotiations with ARU Management in light of ongoing issues of staff dissatisfaction and overwork as highlighted in recent staff surveys. ARU UCU wishes the University to succeed. There are senior managers who do inspire confidence. Elsewhere, there are problems. The letter from our Branch Executive to the Vice Chancellor was sent on 12th May and can be read in full here.

UCU welcome appointment of new Director of HR

Colleagues will have heard that Janis Westely will be joining ARU as the new Director of HR. We have spoken with friends and trusted UCU colleagues at City University, from where Janis will be joining us and are delighted to hear positive assessments about our new Director of HR.  Here are some of the comments: “Really good, competent, sensible, efficient, a pleasant person to deal with, human, genuinely progressive, sorry she is leaving”.

ARU UCU wishes the University to succeed. There are senior managers who do inspire confidence, not least the Vice Chancellor. Elsewhere, there are problems. We have brought these to the attention of the University leadership. Suppressing employee voice can never resolve conflict and the associated high costs, but merely make them harder to anticipate and to manage. As recent staff survey results have revealed, dissatisfaction with and low levels of trust in managers are rampant. UCU membership at ARU continues to grow and all member meetings are larger than ever. Management need to work with us to improve our institution.

Collective bargaining is the key to success. When important decisions are made they must be presented, discussed and agreed through the established machinery of collective consultation and negotiation. Decision making must be forged through the search for consensus. As the largest and most significant independent expression of collective employee voice, wisdom dictates decisions require the consent of UCU. The university needs to invest further in its relationship with UCU and deepen and extend collective bargaining, so that we can all work together to make the University the community we all want and deserve.

The appointment of Janis Westley appears to be a good starting point from which to remedy the failures of the past and UCU look forward to working with her to advance the concerns of our members and thereby secure good industrial relations in our university.

ARU UCU Branch Executive

May 5th 2021

Victimisation of UCU officers overturned

UCU representatives, who have been raising concerns about workloads, bullying and health and safety, have recently had a vexatious grievance mounted against them and presented without a shred of evidence. The Branch Executive made clear this is intolerable. After meeting UCU, University leaders have decided no action will be taken against any of our officers and proposed disciplinary investigations have been quashed. Click for more details here.

Solidarity to colleagues at the University Of Leicester

Colleagues at the University of Leicester are shaping for a strike following news that the university plans to make up to 145 staff members redundant. These redundancies would include ‘critical workers’ such as library staff and maintenance staff, who were essential to campus infrastructure during the pandemic. Others at risk include researchers with a strong track record in authoring high-impact publications and in winning large grants. Further details about the proposed cuts and strike action can be read here.

Dr John Hogan for the National Executive Committee

The 2020-21 round of elections for UCU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will open on Friday 29 January 2021 and close on Tuesday 2 March 2021

The NEC is one of the most important decision-making bodies in the union and its members are elected by UCU members.

On January 11th 2021, at an all members general meeting (with nearly 60 members present), and with unanimous agreement, the ARU UCU Branch decided to support and recommend the election of Dr John Hogan to the NEC.

Dr Hogan’s Election Address can be read in full here.

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