Hi everyone. I’m Tom White, your new Oxford UCU anti-casualisation officer, taking over from Richard Bell. Some of you will know me from the picket lines in 2018, 2019 and 2020. I was joint anti-casualisation officer from September 2020 to February 2021, and also a faculty rep.
Across the university and its colleges, the use of insecure contracts for teaching and research is rife. One third of academic workers in the UK are employed on fixed-term contracts. At the University of Oxford, a self-described ‘world leader’ in so many areas, this figure is 67%. Casualisation and precarity are bad for staff and for our students. 71% of respondents to a UCU survey in 2020 reported that they believed their mental health has been damaged by working on insecure contracts.Casualisation and precarity are equalities issues. Nationwide, 42% of BAME staff are on fixed-term contracts. For white academic staff this figure is 32%. [Download the full report here]
In his investigation of Oxford’s ‘Academic Gig Economy’, published in The Isis earlier this year, Ben O’Brien highlighted how dependant the University is on staff working on successive fixed-term contracts: “Of all staff at Oxford with at least four years’ service, around 40 per cent are on fixed-term contracts. On average these staff have worked at the university for eight years – despite the fact that fixed-term workers have a legal right to be considered for permanency after four.”
Last year, we held open meetings, “Know your contract” workshops, and drop-in sessions. We also released a Know Your Rights Booklet for fixed-term, stipendiary and other casualised staff. We supported casualised staff employed by the central university and in colleges.
With new ballots on the Four Fights and USS disputes starting this week, the network has an important role to play within Oxford and as part of sector-wide action to eliminate casualisation. Over the year ahead, we’re planning to work closely with the Oxford Student Union to address the issues faced by postgraduate teaching assistants.
Contact me via the Oxford Anti-Cas network email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or directly (email@example.com) if you’d like to join a coordinating group for the network. Any time you can commit would be useful and we’re keen to hear from casualised staff from across the university and colleges. We also look forward to hearing from members directly or through your local rep about individual experiences and needs.