Lecturers' leaders in the old universities are campaigning to recruit and improve the position of contract research staff.
The Association of University Techers says that despite many union resolutions and the existing Good Employers agreement with the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, there has been no real improvement in the treatment of contract research staff.
A survey last year showed that under a quarter of contract researchers were members of the AUT. They had lower salaries, fewer employment rights, poorer conditions of service, poor promotion prospects, no career structure, and had to teach without pay.
Local AUT associations are being asked to campaign for the removal of waiver clauses on redundancy and unfair dismissal which many staff are still being forced to sign. A recent tribunal hearing in Scotland confirmed the right of employees on fixed term contracts to be consulted about redundancy.
Associations are also being asked to ensure that contract researchers are not forced to pay for their higher degree fees. The survey showed that nearly half had had to do so. Yet the majority are on the IB scale, which is identified as a training grade. Other areas for action cover appraisal and training, transferability of employment, relocation expenses and bridging funds.
It will also fight for an end to contract research staff being forced to teach without pay. The survey found that two-thirds were paid nothing and only 10 per cent paid for all contact hours.