Today’s strike diary comes from two UCU members who are not striking. Here are their stories:
I am not striking…because I’m legally not entitled to. As a postgraduate member of staff, I (as well as all other PG staff) have been outsourced to third-party temp agency, Unitemps. We are therefore not legally part of the current UCU disputes for which you are all striking. Despite the front-line work we carry out, we are not deemed worthy enough to be employees of the University of Nottingham. Indeed, we are not deemed worthy enough to be anyone’s employee.
“We are not deemed worthy enough to be employees of the University of Nottingham…. Whilst we are unable to (legally) withdraw our labour … we will continue to stand… in solidarity with UCU members in the battle for a more secure future for us all.”
Instead, we are defined as ‘temporary workers’, operating under a ‘contract for services’ arrangement where we are “supplied [by Unitemps] to render services to the Client [UoN]” for a defined period of time. We have been stripped of employment rights (such as access to grievance procedures), and are disposable and replaceable without notice despite the fundamental front-line roles we play in the day-to-day operation of this university (in one Faculty of Arts dept. this semester, PGR teaching staff account for almost 50% of its weekly seminar hours/30% of its total weekly teaching hours).
If you work with any PGRs, it is under these circumstances that they must carry out their work. So, whilst we are unable to (legally) withdraw our labour in the fight against the multipronged attack on our current and future working conditions, we will continue to stand – where and when we can – in solidarity with UCU members in the battle for a more secure future for us all.
I will be teaching four seminars and holding two office hours over the course of the two weeks of industrial action that have now begun at universities across the country. I want to stress that this is not because I do not support the principles for which my colleagues are striking. In fact, it is because I am forbidden to participate on days which I am expected to teach.
This is the current reality of being a postgraduate teacher at the University of Nottingham, someone whose labour senior management does not value enough to contract properly as an employee of the University. Instead, I am on a zero-hours, hourly-paid contract with an external temp work organisation. Because of this, in addition to being excluded from benefits like sick pay and compassionate leave, I am also not part of the University’s agreement with the UCU when it comes to participation in industrial action. If I attempted to strike, it would be in breach of my contract.
“Casualisation is just another symptom of … the wider marketisation of education that is underpinning … the current strikes. If you are striking, please know that many of your postgraduate teaching colleagues are behind you … please turn up to the picket on our behalf.”
While casualised contracts for postgraduate teachers are disappointingly common across Higher Education, the University of Nottingham is one of the worst offenders, in entirely outsourcing these contracts to Unitemps. Casualisation is just another symptom of institutional greed and the wider marketisation of education that is underpinning all of the reasons for the current strikes. If you are striking, please know that many of your postgraduate teaching colleagues are behind you even when we can’t be there on the ground, please turn up to the picket on our behalf as well, and know that many of us will be standing beside you when we are not being forced to teach.
Members of the East Midlands Retired Members Branch turned out today to support strikers
Please note that images are for illustrative purposes; they depict events that took place today but are not directly linked to the stories above.
Watch out tomorrow for strike diaries from across our campuses!