Soas fractionals reject final offer of improved terms

Staff claim revised terms fail to address their concerns over hours spent on preparation and marking

September 4, 2014

Source: Getty

Negotiations on the working conditions of fractional teaching staff at a London institution have broken down.

Junior academics at Soas have rejected the school’s final offer of improved terms and conditions, saying that there was a “fundamental failure” to address the major issues.

Soas is now recruiting a new tranche of teaching staff for the upcoming academic year using revised contracts that have been dismissed by the group, but the institution said that it was willing to engage in further talks.

Negotiations between Soas and the teaching staff, which include graduate teaching assistants and teaching fellows, began earlier this year after a survey suggested that about half their time was unpaid.

In a bid to improve their employment terms, the group embarked on a campaign that included campus protests, public meetings, a petition and YouTube videos. In April, the group refused to mark student assignments but resumed the work once negotiations with management began.

The university made its final offer on 8 July but 95 per cent of University and College Union members on fractional contracts that took part in a vote moved to reject the offer. Two subsequent meetings, under a collective dispute resolution procedure, failed to find a resolution, according to the campaigners.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Fractionals for Fair Play campaign says: “UCU and FFFP recommended rejection of this offer in a consultative vote of fractional staff because of its fundamental failure to address the major concerns raised by the campaign – specifically hours spent on preparation and marking.

“The school argues that fractional staff ‘over-prepare’ for classes and spend ‘too much time’ on marking,” added the statement. The new terms and conditions lay down guidelines on the amount of time staff should spend preparing and marking work.

Soas said that the revised terms and conditions would benefit all fractional staff and are a “major improvement” for GTAs. “What the school is offering for preparation exceeds the standard terms and conditions of all other higher education institutions we have looked at, including University College London, the London School of Economics, Birkbeck, Queen Mary University of London and the [University of] Essex,” it said in a statement for Times Higher Education.

“The current arrangements were negotiated and agreed with UCU,” it added.

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