UNIVERSITY and College Union (UCU) yesterday launched action to support casualised staff. Over a third of all staff are on ‘fixed-term contracts’ rather than permanent jobs and thousands of posts are now under threat.
At King’s College London over a thousand fixed-term staff have been told their contracts are under review. At the University of Liverpool more than 600 face the sack, at Goldsmiths the number is around 400, and close to 300 at Essex.
That means 2,280 jobs are likely to go at just these four institutions the union has been told about. UCU said if this picture was repeated across the sector then almost 30,000 fixed-term contracts would be at risk.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Students would be stunned to learn how much of their teaching is done by staff who have no real security and don’t even know if they’ll have a job this year. Universities rely on an army of insecure staff who have no more rights than other members of the gig economy.
‘Universities are cutting budgets for casual staff and refusing to renew fixed-term contracts, when they should be extending them for the whole duration of this crisis. We can’t trust our senior managers to look out for our most vulnerable colleagues, so we have to take their security into our own hands.’
Meanwhile, 50 veterinary students started back at the University of Nottingham yesterday – the first group to do so.
The university has controversially adopted the ‘bubble’ system in which small groups will live as well as study together.
The university is calling them ‘households’ rather than ‘bubbles’ but it is the same principle of restricting the spread of infection by keeping people in small groups which are kept separate from each other.
UCU regional official Sue Davis said: ‘Staff and student health must be the number one priority for universities reopening their campuses and the University of Nottingham needs to continue with the ongoing risk assessment work it has undertaken to date with its local UCU reps to address the challenges it faces.
‘Any plan to reopen must include extensive, reliable, and transparent testing and contact tracing; coherent plans for social distancing, including travel to and from campus; and protection for those most vulnerable to Covid-19.’