Union claims casualisation wins as Lincoln staff vote to strike

UCU says it has secured an average 15 per cent wage increase for supervisors at Cambridge, and pay raise of 14 per cent for some doctoral tutors at Sussex

June 6, 2024
Source: iStock/ gorodenkoff

The University and College Union (UCU) has claimed “big wins” after helping to secure a pay raise for University of Cambridge college supervisors and University of Sussex doctoral tutors.

The union’s multi-year campaign at Cambridge sought “justice” for supervisors who lead undergraduate tutorials but are often precariously employed by colleges and paid an hourly rate.

The agreement between Cambridge’s colleges and UCU will result in a pay raise worth an average of 15 per cent for supervisors from October, and commits colleges to addressing the gig economy-style contracts by the end of 2024.

campaign spokesperson said the victory was a “step closer towards the fair remuneration of supervisors”, although it does not fully account for the preparation time required.

“The work done so far is a stellar effort in fighting the casualisation that is rampant in higher education, and we are pleased to see the employers committing to negotiations around contracts starting in the next academic year,” they said.

The campaign was demanding that supervisors’ training be paid, that pay packets properly reflect the full number of hours spent on preparation, and that supervisors be moved from gig-economy style hourly paid contracts into secure employment.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the union has now had “big wins” on two of its three demands, with supervisors also on course to gain secure long-term contracts.

“These workers are the cornerstone of the University of Cambridge’s undergraduate teaching system, and due to our work, they are getting wages that reflect their invaluable contributions,” she added.

In response, Cambridge said the new methodology represented part of a longer-term review of payment rates for undergraduate supervisions that began in 2021-22, and that supervisor pay rates have risen faster than nationally agreed university pay since then.

The union has been campaigning on behalf of doctoral tutors at Sussex, who also provide much of the teaching to undergraduate students. More than 95 per cent of members voted to accept a new agreement equating to a pay raise of 14 per cent for over half of them.

Being moved to a higher grade on the university’s pay system also means that doctoral tutors will now gain immediate access to full sick pay, 10 hours of paid training per year, and improved pay for preparation work and marking.

UCU said other universities now need to emulate the University of Sussex and work with their local union branches to improve the pay and conditions of casualised staff. 

Dr Grady said it was “scandalous” that basic rights are denied to a huge cohort of the staff who teach and support students at many universities.

“After two years of intense campaigning, bargaining and negotiating, our members have secured a life-changing win for doctoral tutors,” she said.

“There is more to do but this new agreement provides a solid foundation to provide secure, well-paid jobs to casualised academics.”

Sasha Roseneil, the Sussex vice-chancellor, said the changes were a “very real illustration of the university’s commitment to invest” in its staff, and show the benefits of partnership work with the UCU branch.

Meanwhile at the University of Lincoln, 80 per cent of UCU members voted to strike, on a turnout of 55 per cent, over the threat of cuts to 220 jobs – on top of the eight staff who have already lost their positions in modern languages. 

Joe Rooney, UCU regional support official, urged Lincoln’s management to call off cuts that he said would impact students, damage the university’s regional educational role, and affect the local economy.

“In a small city like Lincoln, these huge cuts threaten to undermine the fabric of the region, exacerbating existing challenges and inequalities,” he added.

Dates for the strikes have not yet been announced but could be as soon as next month.

Through voluntary severance and redundancy schemes, Lincoln said it was “doing everything possible to minimise job losses and avoid compulsory redundancies”.

A spokesperson added: “Like universities across the UK, we are having to reduce our costs in 2024-25 due to growing financial headwinds caused by frozen undergraduate tuition fees, high inflation and declining international student demand.”


Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles