Opinion | 'Underpaid, under-protected and overworked': an open letter from striking staff to the University

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By Casualised staff at the University of Bristol

We, hourly paid teachers, teachers on fractional contracts and other casual staff call on the University of Bristol and the Higher Education sector to make a step change in how it respects and values its workforce. We are joined by permanent staff who are in solidarity with these calls.

In a context of high precarity in which many of us are underpaid, under-protected and overworked, we need to protect against stress, anxiety and burnout and support members of the university for the short and the long term.

Improving conditions, rights and security of university teachers will improve teachers’ ability to fully support students. We put forward the following calls for change which reflect our needs as casual workers. We hope that, in accordance with recent commitments to address casualisation you will respond to the following calls.

Calls for change

We are too often forgotten, excluded, and treated as a second-class workforce. Indeed, in many respects this is what we are. We want to be respected as staff and treated equally.

The need to value our work

We are systematically underpaid, due to both unpaid activities and an unrealistic workload. The time we must put in for free is profit for the university. This is a cost of teaching externalised onto the most unprotected group of university teachers. We want more time for teaching preparation and other teaching related activities.

All university teachers, independently responsible for students in the classroom and for marking their work, should be recognised as Teachers in our own right (at grade I), not as Teaching Assistants or tutors (at grade H or below). Language tutors should not be treated differently to others responsible for teaching.

Every university teacher who has contact with students should have a paid office hour as well as time for administration or related duties.

We want mandatory training to be paid or included in our workloads. We want voluntary training to be available to us so we can progress.

Tackling casualisation

We request transparency in our contracts, working conditions, workload and line-management.

Many hourly paid teachers are deliberately kept causal even when they make an ongoing contribution. Hourly paid teachers should be moved to fixed term contracts.

End use of 10-month contracts which do not pay teachers over the summer period.

We suffer from a lack of access to support offered to other staff, we need such support in order to progress in our personal and life projects. We need clarity and support for maternity and paternity leave.

We want to establish avenues for progression for everyone. We also want paid recognition of building experience and skills.

We need good warning of requirements to work and recognition that we have other responsibilities in our lives. We want turn-around times for marking (including for exams) to be reasonable and realistic.

We are prone to stress, anxiety and burnout, we need full support for our mental and physical well-being.

We also support colleagues in departments across the University who are writing to their Heads of School and Faculty Deans to raise their specific needs.

We make these calls for change in solidarity with casual staff across the Higher Education sector and with casual workers elsewhere.

The letter has been edited for suitability to be published by Epigram

The University have been contacted for comment.

*Featured image credit:Epigram/Siavash Minoukadeh


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