Response to the Vice-Chancellor’s Announcement of a One-off Payment

Given the scale of the cost of living crisis, we welcome the announcement on 7 June of a one-off payment that many – but not all – of our colleagues at Oxford will receive. The payment is an implicit admission that many of you employed at a world-leading university are facing financial difficulties. This is because, even before the current crisis, your pay has not kept up with inflation and your pension (if you have one) has been cut.

You and your colleagues regularly work well in excess of your contractual duties. Across the UK, keeping universities going during the pandemic was only possible because you and your colleagues made significant sacrifices. In return for this, in national pay negotiations, universities across the country – including Oxford – have repeatedly refused to make sure that your pay keeps up with inflation. This year is no different. Employers have made a final offer of a 3% uplift in the same month that the annualised rate of inflation reached 11.1%. We hope that today’s announcement is a sign of growing recognition that this is derisory and unacceptable.

You and your colleagues deserve a pay rise. This one-off payment is not sufficient: as the Vice-Chancellor acknowledges in her email, it will not fully mitigate past and current changes. Even when the one-off payment is taken into account, you will receive lower real-terms pay this year than last. The payment announced today is a symptom of the underlying problem: you are not being paid fairly.

We would like to see the University make better use of its unique position and leverage to ensure a fairer lasting outcome in the national pay negotiations for all staff in UK higher education.

We also have concerns that the two-tier system at Oxford will mean that many talented and dedicated staff will not receive the payment. Colleagues precariously employed on casual contracts who have averaged less than 0.2 FTE – including those who together do much of the teaching at the University – will receive no payment at all. If you are employed on a casual contract and are eligible for the payment, you will likely receive a lower payment than staff on other contract types. If you are employed on a term-time only contract you are likely to miss the payment if your contract finishes at the end of June. We hope that the University reconsiders these terms and takes the opportunity to recognise that all staff at the University make a valuable contribution and that precariously employed staff are the first to be priced out of the city by the cost of living crisis.

Meanwhile, college-only staff will not receive the payment announced today. We await further information from individual colleges and/or the Conference of Colleges about whether they plan to match the payment.

Fair Pay for College Teaching

The Oxford UCU Anti-Casualisation Network is today launching a petition calling for improved pay and conditions for hourly-paid and stipendiary College teaching staff.

The petition is addressed to the current chair and co-chair of Conference of Colleges (the Oxford Colleges’ “forum”) and the 39 college senior tutors. It outlines three demands:

  1. A pay rise
  2. Clear contracts and transparent recruitment processes
  3. Paid training for all postgraduates who teach

The basic rate of pay for a 1-1 tutorial increased by 41p between 2020-21 and 2021-22, from £27.65 to £28.06. The payment for a 2-1 tutorial increased from £34.56 to £35.08. These rates include payment for preparation, marking, and administration. With these duties factored in, the rate of hourly pay for tutors often falls well below the Oxford Living Wage of £10.31. We should be clear about what this means: Oxford’s “world leading” teaching provision is based on systematic wage theft by institutions with a combined wealth of nearly £6bn

Stipendiary lecturers play a vital role in teaching, pastoral care, and admissions; they are equally vital to the research culture of their subject areas. But insecurity, exploitative nine-month contracts, and poor pay are all too familiar in these roles. Conference of Colleges’ Register of Approved Payments states that stipendiary lecturers are paid on a salary scale “based on Grade 5 of the University’s salary scale structure.” Academic roles in the central University start at grade 6 and departmental lecturers are usually employed at grades 7 and 8. It’s clear that both hourly-paid tutors and stipendiary lecturers are long overdue a pay rise.

In December 2021, the Oxford UCU Anti-Casualisation Network and Oxford Brookes UCU collected testimonies from casualised and precarious staff across both universities. The testimonies from PGRs and College teaching staff show how detrimental these roles are to career progression and mental and physical health, and how they entrench inequalities:  

I am a recent PhD graduate with five different casual teaching contracts. Casualised contracts mean that I have had to move back in with my parents aged 30 because I cannot afford rent and have no means of securing a housing contract since my contracts are so short-term and much of my work is just word-of-mouth [and] hourly paid. Although I make less than £15,000 a year, I have 12-20 contact hours per week in term time, have spent ~30 hours on admissions (which is listed as a necessary and therefore unpaid duty in my 2-hour a week stipendiary contract) alongside a (casualised!) 7 hour a week admin contract, so I am frequently exhausted and suffering from both mental burnout and (clinical) physical fatigue. I suffer from muscle weakness, insomnia, palpitations and migraines from the stress.

I moved from a faculty post into a college, and then back into a faculty. Meanwhile I taught for another faculty, for a decade. I wasn’t issued a contract for the sessional classes. When I fell pregnant, mid-job move, the sessional classes would have shown continuity of employment by the university. But because they never issued me with a contract, they didn’t, and my maternity pay was withheld. The federalised structure [of Oxford University] meant my career didn’t count.

One myth is that [casualised teaching contracts] are for bright PhD students getting their foot on the career ladder… . In reality there are many colleagues on these contracts who have been doing their jobs for years – and are relied on to take the work as they will do a good job without needing any support. The framing of these jobs as career development opportunities for which young researchers ought to be grateful therefore ignores the contributions of experienced lecturers and their need for secure and dignified contracts…

I am a…PhD student…and I am paid to teach undergraduates by my college…via a “development scholarship”, which means that I am legally not employed by the college…. I do not have basic workers’ rights such as paid holiday or holiday pay, sick pay, ability to have a workplace pension… I also have no protection if the college decides to stop my “scholarship” for any reason…

The petition also draws inspiration from the Cambridge UCU’s #Justice4CollegeSupervisors campaign, which has recently received coverage in the national press. As at Cambridge, our campaign highlights the lack of union representation for workers in the collegiate university. While the central University recognises trades unions, Oxford’s constituent colleges do not. Earlier this year, Oxford UCU narrowly missed the threshold to take part in the latest rounds of USS and Four Fights industrial action. College-only staff—some of our most precarious and exploited members—weren’t eligible to take part in the ballot and would not have been able to participate in industrial action had we reached the threshold.

The petition is here. A solidarity position for students, staff, and alumni is here.

Tutor Pay and Contracts at the Department for Continuing Education

Notes from an open meeting for tutors held on Monday 14 February 2022

Oxford UCU has organised a second open meeting at 1pm on Monday 14 March to report on outcomes from the meeting with ContEd management and to consider next steps. All ContEd tutors are encouraged to register and join the discussion.

Mikal Mast, Oxford UCU caseworker coordinator, welcomed participants and explained the purpose of the meeting, noting that Oxford UCU has become aware of various issues around pay and contracts through casework and the activities of the anti-casualisation network (organised by Tom White). These issues are common across colleges and the University, but seem especially widespread at the Department for Continuing Education, which is why a meeting with tutors was arranged to provide the opportunity to share experiences and plan further action. Department administrators reached out to UCU to discuss working together with UCU to make progress on these issues, and UCU representatives arranged a meeting with them to explore options.

University contract types

In a 2021 update of a UCU report on Precarious Work in Higher Education, UCU set out a position on zero-hours contracts, noting in particular that “Everyone should have the right to a contract that guarantees the hours they work”.

The University HR website on employment status does not use the term zero hour contracts, although a range of casual contracts might meet this definition (occasional lecturers, casual workers, casual teaching). Variable hours contracts certainly meet the definition, in that there is no obligation for the employer to offer work, nor for the worker to accept work. On the other hand, unlike the other casual contracts, variable hours CAN be permanent CMS contracts (CMS refers to ‘Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford’, which are University employee contracts).

ContEd participants emphasised that under their contracts they are not considered to be University employees. Tutors are on a range of casual contracts, depending on the type of work they are contracted to do, and they noted that their contracts are explicitly called ‘zero-hours’ contracts. 

Some are on consultancy contracts, others have contracts for services, others are on several types of contracts simultaneously (or even working for several universities), and some are still considered self-employed – which caused additional difficulty during Covid because they were not eligible for furlough while at the same time blocked from accessing government self employment support grants.

The problems facing ContEd tutors are not just restricted to precarious contracts – their contractual situation leads directly to another major workplace problem – low pay.

Issues regarding part-time tutor pay

Amount that tutors are paid

ContEd recently reduced the hourly teaching rate for face-to-face tutors from £35ph to £23.18ph, a drop of 34%. At the same time, they have for the first time acknowledged at least some of the hours that tutors spend preparing and reporting, and agreed to pay 4 hours for every 2 hours taught. This means that there is an overall increase in the amount of pay received for a 10-week course. However, tutors have been doing hours of unpaid preparation for years; this new arrangement looks like “giving with one hand whilst taking with the other”.

Weekly, WOW and summer school courses now pay 2 hours for submitting a proposal for a new course. Again, this is far below the amount of time actually required for preparing a proposal, let alone preparing for 20 hours of teaching, and leaves designing the course effectively unremunerated. Award-bearing courses do not pay at all for preparing course proposals.

The University of Oxford claims that it pays all its staff the Oxford Living Wage (OLW, going up to £10.50ph in April), and after quite a bit of pressure, ContEd began to pay tutors the OLW for marking three years ago, based on the notion that it takes half an hour to mark and administer a 500-word script. (Many tutors agree that in fact it often takes far longer than this, but ContEd has refused to canvas tutors to find out.) For MSc essays it appears that ContEd expects tutors to mark at double that rate: 1,000 words in half an hour.

ContEd have been asked why marking is paid at Grade 1, rather than Grade 7.8, which is what teaching payments have now been linked to, but have declined to answer.

Delays in paying tutors

In one example, for 10-week on-line and face-to-face classes, marking is not paid until after the end of term. So this term, for example, marking completed in early March will not be paid until the end of May.

Holiday pay is paid separately, and not until after the end of the 10-week term: so for teaching done in January, the holiday pay element of the hourly rate will not be paid until the end of April.

Mistakes in paying tutors

In December 2021, it came to light that all on-line tutors had been underpaid (by about £130 each, or 12%) in the Michaelmas term, and were about to be underpaid again in the Hilary term. When ContEd admin was alerted to this by a tutor, it was blamed on a “database error”. No apology was offered and no explanation of how this could be avoided in future given (despite this question being asked in an on-line tutor meeting on 9 February 2022).

This is not the first time that tutors have been underpaid.

The opacity of payslips

Payments appear on tutors’ payslips without proper explanation, which makes it very difficult for tutors to check that they have been paid correctly. As a result, many don’t check their payslips – or if they do, they give up trying to untangle them – and this allows the underpayments mentioned earlier to go unnoticed.

At a recent on-line tutors’ meeting this issue – the lack of transparency in payslips – was raised; an administrator said that this was a central University issue, and that she had been asking for it to be resolved for almost 20 years. However, no reasons for why payslips can’t be made more user-friendly were offered. Tutors with access to the VPN can check their payslips on-line, but these are simply electronic versions of the paper ones. Another administrator reported that she has details of every payment made and that tutors could always contact her for an explanation. If this information is apparently available within ContEd, why can’t it be made available to tutors routinely?

Campaign to improve contracts for Creative Writing tutors

Since 2018, tutors for the MSt in Creative Writing have been campaigning against the department’s use of casualised contracts and for improved pay. Rebecca Abrams described how their campaign began with an open letter signed by more than twenty creative writing tutors. In 2019, having received no response from the department, the tutors contacted the Society of Authors to assist with and support their campaign. Rebecca also noted the campaign by short course tutors at Goldsmiths, who mounted a successful legal challenge against their classification as ‘independent contractors’. Their reclassification as workers means they are now entitled to certain employment rights: being paid at least the National Minimum Wage, the right to union representation, paid holiday and protection against unlawful discrimination and against unlawful deductions from their wages.

The creative writing tutors met with ContEd’s finance and HR directors in December 2019. However, with the onset of the pandemic, these discussions were paused by the department until December 2021. In a meeting in January 2022, ContEd proposed a new arrangement for creative writing tutors: ‘Departmental Lecturer’ roles with either fixed or variable hours and an option for freelance contracts with payment rates negotiated between the department and the tutor. The details of the proposed new contracts are still under negotiation. We understand that this arrangement may be extended to other tutor groups.

Out now! Precarious academic work in Oxford: Testimonies from Oxford Brookes and Oxford University UCU members

There is nothing inevitable about the levels of casualisation in the higher education sector, nor has it come about by accident; it is the result of universities’ reliance on a particular business model. After adjusting for inflation, the sector has seen its total income rise by around 15% over the last six years, while casualisation continues to grow.

Oxford Brookes UCU and Oxford University UCU have produced a report on precarious academic work and its impacts. The report includes testimonies from fixed-term and hourly-paid lecturers, researchers, and PGRs from the two institutions, as well as comments from permanent colleagues on how casualisation affects workloads and research culture.

Collecting and sharing these stories means giving voice to those who too often feel unable to question their terms of employment, for fear of having their hours cut or not having their fixed-term contract renewed. The final section of the report, ‘What can I do?’, includes practical suggestions on how all UCU members can challenge casualisation.

The testimonies were gathered in November and December 2021, after discussions at a joint open meeting held by the two branches. The report was initially launched in December, with speakers Pete Wood, UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee Co-Chair and associate lecturer at the Open University, Sanaz Raji, an independent scholar and activist, and founder of Unis Resist Border Controls, and Callum Cant, postdoctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of Riding for Deliveroo: Resistance in the New Economy.

Download the full report here.

Message from our Anti-casualisation Officer

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 ( or directly ( 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.



College stipendiary pay: Some suggestions for improvement

College stipendiary lecturers play a vital role in teaching, pastoral care, and admissions; they are equally vital to the research culture of their subject areas. The insecurity and poor pay associated with these roles is often justified by colleges and some senior academics on the basis that they are a way for early career academics to gain experience prior to their first permanent position. This has long been a dubious justification, to say the least, and it rings increasingly hollow in the context of the entrenched precarity faced by academic workers in Oxford and beyond.

Stipendiary lecturers constitute a group of workers on which the University’s day-to-day functioning depends and on whose research expertise it capitalises, but who do not necessarily receive the benefits and entitlements of their permanent colleagues (statutory sick leave, parental leave, protection against unfair dismissal) and who are especially vulnerable to exploitation within Oxford’s decentralised system. In particular, many stipendiary lecturers experience a significant disconnect between their notional hours of employment and the actual hours of work their role demands. 

This blog post highlights a particular issue regarding pay that many stipendiary lectures might not be aware of or might not feel able to raise with their line manager. If you think you are affected by this issue, then 1. speak to your colleagues in your college and in your subject area/faculty, 2. contact us on Oxford colleges do not recognise trade unions. While this means UCU cannot collectively bargain with colleges, we can and frequently do offer guidance and support to members who are employed on college-only contracts. If you are a college-only employee and would like to join UCU, then visit, or get in touch with the Oxford UCU branch.

Stint reform and stipendiary pay

The pay scale for stipendiary lecturers is set by the Conference of Colleges. This body comprises two representatives of each college and acts as a forum for discussion amongst the Oxford colleges and as a channel between the colleges and the central University. The Conference of College’s ‘Register of Approved Payments’ are available to download from the OxCORT homepage ( The recommended scale for 2020-1 is below:

Beneath the pay scale is an additional paragraph:

The division of the scale into 12 hours reflects the original 12-hour stint of a CUF [College and University Fellowship] Lecturer (before the advent of stint reform); thus the ‘6-hour’ line (the line for a ‘50%’ Stipendiary Lecturer) applies to the full 6-hour stint of a ULTF. The standard full-time CUF Lecturer stint is now 8 contact hours. It may therefore be more helpful to use the percentage of a full-time stint required of a Stipendiary Lecturer to determine which line of this scale to employ (e.g. the 6-hour line would represent 50% of a full-time stint for a CUF Lecturer), though this is a matter for individual college discretion.

This is not an easy paragraph to follow, even for those acquainted with Oxford’s employment practices and acronyms, but it highlights a significant point of concern: stipendiary pay is still based on a 12-hour scale, even though the University’s stint reform means that a full-time tutorial fellow role is now constituted by 8 hours of contact time per week.

According to this scale, a stipendiary lecturer working on a six-hour contract is still classed as doing 50% of a standard permanent post, rather than 75%. This means, for example, that a stipendiary lecturer working on an 8-hour contract on stage 1 earns £18,341 when they should be earning £27,711 for 12 weighted hours (as equivalent to 8 contact hours). In effect, they are only being paid for two-thirds of the work they undertake. There are some stipendiary lectureship advertisements which specify weighted hours, but many do not and the consequences for pay of this reform are not made clear to all stipendiary lecturers. After all, colleges are only advised to observe payment in weighted hours. Many stipendiary lectureships—already an insecure and exploitative form of work—are significantly underpaid even on their own terms. ‘It may therefore be more helpful [for stipendiary lecturers]’ for colleges to observe weighted hours, the final sentence of the above paragraph begins. Very ‘helpful’ indeed!

Two suggestions for improvement:

1.         Require colleges to observe weighted hours in the appointment of stipendiary lecturers. A document explaining how weighted hours are calculated should be circulated among all incoming stipendiary lecturers in order to ensure that they are fully apprised of the conditions of their employment.

Or, even better: 

2.         Require colleges to replace CUFs on temporary leave with a full-time employee (or the appropriate percentage thereof, in the case of CUFs on part-time contracts). Exemptions may be issued in specific circumstances, but a persuasive rationale must be offered as to why an exception should be made, given that stipendiary lecturers are expected to play an active part in college life (including the provision of pastoral care), to take the initiative in access and outreach work, and to continue with their research (on which their teaching expertise in part depends, but for which they are not remunerated).            

Know Your Contract Workshop

Next anti-casualisation workshop taking place from 13.00-14.00 on Friday 22 January.

On Friday 4 December, the Oxford UCU Anti-Casualisation Network (@OxfordAntiCas) and Fund the Future Working Group ran a second open meeting of the term, Fighting Casualisation at the University of Oxford: Identifying the Key Issues. Tom White, the joint Anti-Casualisation Officer, introduced a new Know Your Rights booklet that provides information on contracts, rights, and redundancy procedures for fixed-term, stipendiary, and other casualised staff. The booklet will be posted to the website soon. The issue of union recognition by Colleges was then discussed and Ruth Lawlor from Cambridge UCU offered a valuable account of their recent organising efforts. In 2021, we plan to hold a joint Cambridge-Oxford Anti-Casualisation Network meeting to discuss how we might address this issue collectively. The meeting also heard from postgraduate members angry about the terms of their employment as teaching assistants. If you are a postgraduate member and would like to join a new working group on this issue, please email

Join us at the next anti-cas event, Fighting Casualisation at the University of Oxford: Know Your Contract, on 22 December, 1-2pm. Register for the event here.

Fighting Casualisation at the University of Oxford: Identifying the Key Issues

Next anti-casualisation workshop taking place from 13.00-14.00 on Friday 4 December.

On Monday 16 November, the UCU Anti-Casualisation Network and Fund the Future Working Group ran a workshop, Opposing Fixed Term Contracts at the University of Oxford. Speakers from the UCU, Tom White the joint Anti-Casualisation Officer, and Mikal Mast, the Casework Co-Ordinator, offered insight into the problem and on what the UCU can offer. Roberto Mozzachiodi offered some useful insights from the much more established union movement in Goldsmiths University, which recently won in a dispute with the university over the freezing of all fixed term contract extensions due to Covid. There was also a report from the grass-roots post-doc network, who have been knowledge sharing across colleges and departments, to help post-docs of all kinds apply for contract extensions due to Covid-relation disruptions with some (albeit limited) success. Over forty people attended, which demonstrated the urgency and importance of this problem, and it was agreed with consultation from the participants that we would hold another event before the end of term.

Join us at the next anti-cas event, Fighting Casualisation at the University of Oxford: Identifying the Key Issues, on 4 December, 1-2pm. Register for the event here.

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Precarity in a Pandemic Age: Opposing Fixed-Term Contracts at the University of Oxford

UCU workshop taking place from 13.00-14.00 on Monday 16th November

One third of academic workers in the UK are employed on Fixed-Term Contracts (FTCs). At the University of Oxford, a self-described ‘world leader’ in so many areas, this figure is 67%. The notion that fixed-term teaching-only or research-only contracts are a viable route into permanent employment looks increasingly untenable. Casualisation and precarity are bad for staff and for our students. 71% of respondents to a recent UCU survey 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]

Precarious staff have been hit especially hard by the fallout from Covid-19. Grassroots campaigns like #CoronaContract have highlighted the problems facing academic workers on FTCs and fought to secure their livelihoods. 

This event will provide information on the University of Oxford’s use of FTCs. We will also hear from recent grassroots organising efforts. The closing discussion will offer attendees the opportunity to share and discuss their experiences.

You can follow the Oxford UCU Anti-Casualisation Network on Twitter: @OxordAntiCas or email to be added to our mailing list. 

This event is open to UCU members and non-members. We also encourage College-only staff to attend.

Zoom meeting link | Meeting ID: 826 6224 2592 | Passcode: 431636

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The scandal of casualisation

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), in 2018 there were 72,000 staff on highly casualised ‘atypical’ academic contracts.

At least 51,094 university teaching staff are on hourly-paid contracts, and at least 12,567 on zero-hours contracts. At the same time, 66% of research staff are on fixed-term contracts, with around a third of these contracts running for 12 months or less. All in all, the HE sector relies on far more than 100.000 casualised staff in teaching, research and academic-related professional roles.

These are the figures for casualisation nationwide. Unfortunately, at the University of Oxford, the picture isn’t any more rosy. Quite the contrary: 76.9% of academic and academic-related staff here are on fixed-term or atypical contracts – yes, that really are more than 3 in 4! Compared to a nationwide figure of ‘only’ 50.9%… another area we are among the ‘leading’ in the sector. [Please note the sarcasm]

This is more than 10 years after the new regulations for fixed-term contracts came into force – only one sign that we can’t rely on the employers to stick to vague promises of improving the job security and status of casualised HE workers.

Part of the joint 2018 higher education trade union pay and equality claim is a demand for a nationally-agreed framework for action on precarious contracts. We are calling for universities to commit to institution-level action plans to address security of employment and to begin time-limited negotiations with the trade unions.

The institution action plan should include specific commitments to end the use of zero hours contracts; commit to ending “worker arrangements” for teaching staff in favour of employee contracts; to transfer more hourly paid staff onto fractional employment contracts; and to commit to moving more research staff onto open-ended contracts and to create more employment security for researchers.

For all the statistics on casualisation in HE: UCU Stamp out casual contracts campaign

UCU has launched a major new survey on casualisation –
if you’re on an insecure contract please fill in the survey and share with any colleagues also on insecure contracts.