Hourly paid progress

January 10, 2008

Your anonymous contributor paints a vivid and depressing picture of the two-tier workforce that characterises higher education (Opinion, 4 January). The division between a relatively well-paid and secure core of permanent workers and a periphery of casual workers experiencing inferior pay and conditions has persisted at least as long as my employment at university, first as a full-time lecturer for 25 years and since 2000 as a part-time hourly paid teacher.

The writer's final paragraph concludes with a plea for the unions to turn their attention "to the pay rates and conditions of the rest of us". I obviously do not know whether your contributor is a union member and whether he or she has sought to raise part-timers' issues in union meetings, but the promotion of part-timers' rights is underpinned by the law, in the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000. Nationally, the University and College Union is encouraging branches to include part-time hourly paid tutors in negotiations implementing the 2004 Framework Agreement.

Here at Hull, UCU negotiators have been doing just that. After three years of difficult negotiation, an agreement has been concluded for hourly paid teachers. True, it represents a compromise, but for the first time there is actually an agreement on the pay and conditions of hourly paid staff, rather than their unilateral imposition by management. Preparation time is paid, the divisor for calculating hourly rates of pay has been reduced from 40 to 36.5, hourly paid staff are placed on a job-evaluated grade on the pay spine according to the appropriate national academic role profile, increments will be paid, there is payment for additional duties, and a formula has been agreed for the conversion of hourly paid staff to fractional contracts. In recognition of the fact that the transition to equitable treatment for hourly-paid part-timers cannot be achieved in one fell swoop, unions and management have also agreed that a review of the workload and the weighting factor applied to hourly-paid teachers will be completed no later than the end of this academic year.

I know that the Hull UCU branch is not alone in negotiating for the hourly paid. The best way for these workers to ensure that their interests are addressed is to collectively campaign within their branches for their equitable treatment.

Michael Somerton,
Part-time hourly paid lecturer and one of the UCU representatives on the academic and academic-related negotiating group, University of Hull

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