Important Update on Hourly Paid Staff at Goldsmiths

Hourly paid and fractional teaching staff play a vital role at Goldsmiths – they lead a substantial number of undergraduate classes and are regularly called on to mark essays throughout the year. Many HPLS are active members of our UCU branch here at Goldsmiths.

Goldsmiths UCU is proud to have negotiated perhaps the best agreement in the sector that assimilates the pay and conditions of HPLs with those of permanent staff. This has helped to correct the huge variations that marked the hiring and payment of HPLS across the College.

We recognise that this has pushed up the HPL budget. Of course it has – many casual staff were underpaid and subject to very unpredictable conditions – but the College has always insisted that they set aside enough money to pay for Assimilation. No Departments are going to go bankrupt – indeed the College was confident enough recently to offer staff a £300 bonus because of our collective hard work. We think that the new deal will reward HPLs for their work and help to make Goldsmiths a better place to work for part-time and temporary teaching staff.

We are now currently engaged in several consultations where Departments are seeking to restructure teaching provision and to change the way they recruit HPLs. They are all quite different: some involve the proposed redundancy of permanent fractional staff, some involve simply offering fewer hours to HPLs and some involve the possibility of part-time staff acquiring permanent status.

In response to these developments, management and the unions agreed to set up a cross-College ‘managing change’ committee to meet regularly to discuss these consultations. This group has met once but its second meeting, due to take place last Thursday, was cancelled because there was apparently ‘no business’.

The previous day, UCU was presented with a consultation document from one particular Department which proposes to make redundant five permanent fractional staff and to hire new PhD students in their place. The deadline for applying for these ‘replacement’ posts was last Friday, two days after we received notice of the Consultation.

In our view, this makes a mockery of the whole managing change policy which states that the unions must receive documents at least two weeks before the start of a consultation. How can the College advertise posts that will exist only if the redundancies, which are the subject of the consultancy, actually go ahead? Not only do we doubt the legitimacy of the proposals under employment law but it also raises concerns about the College’s commitment to proper consultation in the first place. We have requested that the whole recruitment process be frozen until we have had an opportunity formally to discuss these issues.

We are communicating all this to you because there are likely to be further consultations affecting members across the College and because we wanted to rebut the idea that the Assimilation agreement will have a negative impact on Goldsmiths.

We are also sending this to you because we believe there is still much to be done. The Assimilation agreement has helped to equalise pay and conditions but it has done little to address the fundamental insecurity faced by many HPLs. We recognise that many HPLs are PhD students whose teaching opportunities are linked to their participation in a doctoral programme. But this does not mean that they should not expect full professional development and at least some opportunity for progression.

That is why your Executive has written to SMT calling on the College to discuss two simple requests:

1. That HPLs should normally (subject to their academic and teaching performance) expect three years of employment, starting as a Graduate Trainee Tutor in their first year of teaching. This is designed to maximise opportunties for professional and career development (as provided for in the VT assimilation agreement) and to ensure the continuity of the student experience.
 
2. Departments should follow best practice by informing HPLs of their teaching duties in June of the preceding year. This is to enable all staff to plan ahead and better organise their teaching and other activities for the coming year.

We will keep you informed of management’s response and in the meantime, please do let us know about any questions about these issues.