Southampton UCU Rotating Header Image

A bonus……for some

Southampton UCU Executive Committee has written to the VC and University Executive Board, urging them to reconsider their decision not to award the one-off COVID bonus to University of Southampton workers employed on casual contracts or whose fixed-term contracts ended before 13th July.

We are, of course, pleased to see that the hard work of colleagues has been recognised in this one-off bonus of up to £600. We know that it has been an exceptionally difficult year for many of our members, who have often gone above and beyond to carry out their duties in the face of huge uncertainty and upheaval. We are sincere in saying that the bonus is a significant gesture for a sector that is prone to recognising staff contribution in words rather than action. However, we are compelled to highlight a fundamental inequality in the bonus as structured — specifically, the decision to exclude casual colleagues from receipt of the payments.

Since the announcement, many of our hourly-paid members have contacted us to express their disappointment and anger about their exclusion from the bonus payment. They have pointed out that their work over this period is often indistinguishable from that of staff on more secure contracts. Additionally, like their permanent counterparts, they have stepped in to take on additional duties as part of the COVID-19 response. This is to say that they have taught, marked, enabled, supported and administered in the same way as their colleagues. In fact, they have seen their workload increase with the extension of teaching slots from 45 to 60 minutes, with no accompanying increase in pay. They have worked even when sick, because of the shameful policy that leaves Uniworkforce employees with no contractual sick-pay entitlement. They have also been unable to access many of the schemes of Government support made available to more formalised employees during lockdown.

The hard work of staff on casual contracts deserves no less recognition and reward than that of other staff.  We appreciate that there may be added complexities in identifying and quantifying the work histories of casual workers — and we are happy to work with UEB to seek solutions to these.

Actions you can take

Those who share our sense that this situation is unjust are welcome to join us in the following actions:

  • If you are active on social media, share examples of the important tasks carried out by casual workers in your team this year and why these contributions deserve to be recognised. Remember to tag @SouthamptonUCU in any tweets.
  • If you are on an insecure contract, either employed through Uniworkforce or on a fixed-term contract, join UCU (if you’re not already a member) and come along to a meeting of casualised members on 17 August at 12pm (invitation to follow). We will discuss a further response to the decision and our campaigning priorities for the year ahead as part of our insecure contracts working group.
  • If you are a PGR member, you can join our active PGR UCU Teams page for updates from UCU where we will also be coordinating the PGR as staff manifesto campaign. Contact UCU@soton.ac.uk to join.
  • If you are a staff member that has received a bonus and would like to donate a portion of it toward insecure colleagues, unfortunately, there is no general hardship fund for PGRs at University of Southampton (we are working on that). Please consider donating to Education Support, a partnership initiative with UCU that provides a variety of support to all members. Given the strong likelihood of industrial action in the upcoming academic year, you might also consider contributing to the  UCU national fighting fund or Southampton UCU’s local hardship fund, both of which provide financial support to members taking part in industrial disputes.

What else is Southampton UCU doing?

As well as lobbying for a reversal of this decision not to include casual workers in the bonus, Southampton UCU remains committed to improving the long-term employment conditions for all our members, including those on casual contracts. Under the new definition of a casual worker being introduced by HR, we hope to see all colleagues engaged with Uniworkforce for more than 12 weeks move over to fixed-term contracts. We will push for equality of these contract terms with those currently offered to permanent staff members.

In line with the recently launched PGR manifesto, we will be campaigning for uniformity across the University of Southampton in the way PGRs are treated: concerning both research work, and paid teaching work. In addition, for those PGRs who teach, we are seeking to negotiate a Graduate Teaching Assistant Contract based on the principles of employment laid out in the recently launched UCU PGR manifesto and in the 2021/22 JNCHES pay claim, which includes the principle that PGRs who teach should be included in any reward or recognition schemes run by the employer.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *