Anti-casualisation news from Bradford College
Bradford College is the second largest further education provider in England and one of the largest UCU FE branches.
Recent issues affecting casualised (hourly-paid and agency) staff at the College include a proposed new contract, training day payments for part-time staff, a new building and ‘casualisation creep’ – a perceived increase in the numbers of, and reliance on,casualised staff (mainly hourly-paid but also agency staff).
Some teaching staff perceive there to be increasing levels of casualisation creep at the College, with part-time, hourly-paid contracts, and agency staff being used in place of salaried staff in the vocational areas of FE Business, ESOL, and the A Level centre. In FE business there are currently an estimated 14 hourly-paid members of staff compared to 7.5 staff on full-time salaried contracts. We have estimated the total average contact hours worked by hourly-paid staff to be 247 per week, compared with the estimated 156 contact hours for full-time staff. Eight of these hourly-paid teachers have course tutor responsibilities across eight courses, assist with internal verification duties, external verification by Ofsted and Edexcel, pastoral care, mentoring of trainees, curriculum development completing student report forms, and departmental administration duties. One of the hourly-paid tutors is a subject learning coach and volunteer connection for the IfL,for which no remission or payment is received. There are also cases where hourly-paid staff are writing and delivering entire courses for external agencies such as the Jobcentre.
One of the perceived reasons for the continuing use of hourly-paid staff is the need to keep costs down, as measured by the ‘pay to income’ ratio. In the A Level centre, a member of staff was recently made redundant and replaced with two Protocol National agency workers costing the College an estimated additional £1000 per week. Protocol staff are also being used to deliver ESOL. Colleges would say that this provides a more flexible workforce, but the counterargument is that we need stability and professionalism for hourly-paid staff.
Reliance on goodwill
However, the full picture of the contribution of hourly-paid staff goes beyond numbers of and contact hours to encompass goodwill in planning (schemes of work,lesson plans, mentoring, administration and pastoral care duties). Managerialism and bean counting often fail to assess and acknowledge the contribution of staff in these areas. With regard to the issue of ‘casualisation creep’ we have sought information on the number of hourly-paid, and agency staff, and the hours worked per department to enable assessment of the extent to which the College is reliant on casualised staff. Once this information is received, we will be aiming to organise hourly paid staff, and press for improved contracts and conditions for hourly-paid staff.
The new contract
The new contract proposes to increase teaching hours from 777 to 880, by two hours per week for all salaried full time staff, and to increase the number of teaching weeks as well as reducing holiday entitlement. This increase in contact hours is opposed by branch members because it will increase teaching loads, and reduce time available for equally important pastoral care, administrative and CPD activities and threaten the quality of our provision. Scholarly and CPD activities are currently in the spotlight having been highlighted as an area the College needs to improve in to achieve Taught Degree Awarding Powers.
The new contract, if implemented will have a devastating effect on the numbers of hourly-paid staff as well as increasing the stress levels of full-time staff. Therefore, at the AGM on 15 March 2012 members voted overwhelmingly to take strike action in order to defend the current contract and conditions. If implemented this contract will be the worst in the region.
Training and planning day
On the training and planning day issue (TAP day) it is felt that hourlypaid staff are excluded by the cancellation of all classes, in return for payment of £36 to attend. Some hourly-paid staff have been told it is compulsory to attend TAP day, whilst others are not expected to attend. Under the terms of their contracts however, hourly-paid staff are not expected to attend, therefore missing out on important training, planning, and information dissemination. In addition, many hourly-paid staff have no incentive to attend for the low payment which works out as below minimum wage over the course of a whole day’s attendance. Staff in the FE business department are taking a lead in challenging management over this issue, on equality grounds as many hourly paid staff are women.
With the new-build, the hot-desking issue has returned to the fore. Staff will be expected to hot-desk. With minimal storage space, carrying files, and papers could present health and safety risks. It also raises issues of meaningful and inclusive communication spaces for staff. Hourly-paid staff who are teaching full time hours won’t even have the same rights to a desk as full-time staff teaching the same number of hours. The lack of staff meeting and interaction spaces fails to promote teacher led forms of CDP, communities of inquiry, and collaboration.
These issues have been brought to management’s attention and the proposed new-build highlighted as anti-educational but they are determined to press on with their plans, placing an announcement in the local paper about the new-build and the proposed inferior contracts (designed to cut staffing costs by financing the costs of a £35 million loan). The branch committee will be meeting to discuss a proactive approach to these developments, including a counter PR strategy, as well as investigating local authority sign-off for the new-build plans.
A UCU Bradford blog and UCU Bradford Twitter feed are under development so watch this space for more anti-casualisation news from the branch.