Edinburgh signs pledge to end zero-hours contracts

The University of Edinburgh has signed an agreement to cease all use of zero-hours contracts and replace them with “fair and equitable” deals.

September 6, 2013

Times Higher Education reported yesterday that Edinburgh had been found to be the biggest user of zero-hours contracts for academic staff in a University and College Union survey of UK institutions, and had committed to stop using the contracts.

Edinburgh had 2,712 academic staff on the controversial deals, which give workers no certainty on the hours they will work or on their income.

Now the UCU has said it has signed a formal agreement with the university to ensure it meets the commitment on abolishing use of the contracts.

Mary Senior, UCU Scottish official, said: “We will continue to campaign against exploitative casualised contracts in higher education and are eager to work with any other universities who wish to demonstrate they are good employers.”

Eilidh Fraser, the university’s deputy director of human resources, said: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with our trade unions to review our use of ‘hours to be notified’ contracts and maintain our good employment practices, pay and conditions for all our staff.”

The UCU’s national survey found that more than half of UK higher education institutions use zero-hours contracts, with over 24,000 academics and other staff on the controversial deals across 71 institutions.

John Swinney, the Scottish finance secretary, recently said that the Scottish government “does not approve of zero-hours contracts” and would consider a “requirement in procurement contracts that zero-hours contracts cannot be used”.

A joint statement has been issued by Edinburgh and the UCU to union members at the institution. It says the university will “further enhance current practice (whereby hourly-paid employees benefit from the same terms and conditions as our full-time staff, including rates of pay, access to pensions and holiday entitlements)”.

The statement adds: “In particular, steps are being taken with regard to giving staff guaranteed hours and moving to fractional and pro-rata contracts.

“We all recognise that such contracts, which are founded on fair and equitable policies and practices, benefit staff, students and the university, and we will continue to work in partnership with our trade unions to shape and model good practice.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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