The first UCU college workers’ union national meeting for fixed term and hourly paid workers took place in London on Friday of last week.
Around 40 delegates from across Britain met to discuss how to organise and campaign for improvements for these workers.
Casualisation is a longstanding problem in higher and further education. In both sectors over 65 percent of staff are on fixed term contracts.
These range from relatively well-paid research staff to armies of lecturers paid by the hour, only appearing in the college to teach, and then disappearing again.
In some cases, current campaigns are making a difference. The meeting heard from Kaye Carl, a member from Sheffield University, who had successfully taken her employer to a tribunal to challenge their assertion that she was “self employed”.
At a minority of colleges, many teaching fellows have been transferred onto “proper” contracts of employment.
There is a debate in the union about the law and how to use it. The fixed term regulations are leading to some institutions changing their practices.
However, some branches appear to be waiting for the perfect “test case” to win the campaign for them.
Others, influenced by the UCU Left group, are using the legal arguments to build a campaign involving members.