Sheffield UCU has long campaigned to improve the working conditions for our Casual Workers and Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). The Graduate Teaching Assistant contract is the product of negotiations from several years ago and other positive engagement with the University. However there is still room for significant improvements.
As part of UCU's national campaign to 'stamp out casualisation' in Higher Education, Sheffield UCU decided to have an open survey to all staff and workers at the University of Sheffield to hear and share the views of staff and students.
The survey was sent to all staff at the University of Sheffield through a manually managed email database. Often casual workers and other categories are not always given a University email address and we encouraged staff to pass on the survey to other workers that we may have been initially unable to contact.
Take the survey now - we will update the data regularly on this website if more responses are made (Sheffield staff and workers only)
Part of our call to the University is to take responsibility to survey and improve working conditions for all staff, including workers. If you are a GTA or Casual Worker, the University has historically had little or no interest in finding out your views or concerns - you are simply a payroll number with a payment amount against it. Sheffield UCU calls on the University of Sheffield to take central responsibility and accountability to ensure GTAs and Casual Workers, often fee-paying Masters and PhD students, are treated properly in their early careers:
- To improve contractual terms and conditions, including access to staff benefits and fractional hour contracts instead of zero-hour agreements.
- To provide better central training and support - the current devolved model of local training, development and pay procedure is fragmented, inconsistent and unfair.
- To have robust mechanisms to ensure equal pay for equal work for GTAs and Casual Workers - currently no framework or central process exists.
- To provide regular central communications - to have the decency and respect of this workforce and develop a sense of belonging (without which so much would be lost in our community), to remind workers of their rights, when pay rates change, when they might be eligible for a back payment, to know that preparation time is in fact paid.
- To actively engage with these workers directly, for example by including them in the University Staff Survey and the THE Top 100 Employer survey.
- To actively engage with staff in departments that work with GTAs and Casual Workers so that local arrangements are consistent and fair - currently this is through word of mouth and the University doesn’t even have any training workshops for staff or quality checks in place before a staff member is allowed to authorise the registration of a new worker.
At present Sheffield UCU are in negotiations with the University to get improvements in working conditions for Casual Workers and GTAs, underpinned by the above principles. These negotiations are in the early stages and initial discussions have been positive and build upon previous joint work with the University.
The purpose of publishing the views of staff and workers is to openly disclose the good and the bad experiences of students and staff in our university community irrespective of their contractual engagement, to keep the conversation going and to demand dignity and respect for workers. The results are transparent and you can see the proportion of responses from staff and students engaged on Fixed Term Contracts, Casual Worker Agreements and Graduate Teaching Assistants.