At close of business yesterday, we were made aware that the University is advertising 130 posts for new student hires. These job posts state “you will play an important role in enabling the university to continue to deliver high quality teaching, resources and support to its students.” These are the specifications for roles that are currently, or have previously been, filled by precarious academic staff who are now left without work. Our Branch President has been consistently assured that these roles would in fact be used to retain existing staff. At a joint Union-HR meeting on 21 April 2020, Tim Quine (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Education) assured unions that PTAs were needed to enable teaching to move online, and that there would be plenty of work for these members. On 27 April 2020, at a Workload Planning Group meeting at which our Branch President was present, there was a discussion about increasing the number of hours PTAs could work, in order to resource online teaching delivery. With the advertisement of these roles, it appears that these assurances no longer stand.

This recruitment drive comes during a climate of pay and promotion freezes, extra workload for secure staff, and redundancies or contract terminations for precarious staff. These student posts are minimally paid, whilst undervalued experienced teachers are losing their livelihoods or having their workloads increased. As a branch, we object to this work being advertised as new posts and call on the University to uphold its principles for protecting staff during the crisis by using this opportunity to redeploy. We believe that this latest initiative is an attempt by the employer to replace their existing casualised workforce with even cheaper labour, rather than honouring their commitments to provide fairer, more secure employment for all.

The University has committed to five principles to guide their response to the crisis. These include: 

  • Avoid redundancies, where possible
  • Protect the lowest paid
  • Ensure solutions are consistent with our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity values. 

They have committed to redeploying workers where possible, and extending fixed-term contracts where they would have usually been extended. These new posts, along with several cases that UCU are aware of, directly contradict these principles.

The branch believes that it is unjustifiable to hire 130 new staff members, when existing staff members who are very well placed to fill these roles are losing their work. Furthermore, we believe that it is insulting to members who are losing their jobs to have been asked to circulate the advertisement for these roles to their students whilst they themselves are facing uncertain futures due to a contracting job market. We will be urgently communicating this to the University in the coming days and will update this response as the situation develops.