All staff deserve the right to be in a recognised trade union. Union recognition is the foundation on which our ability to collectively bargain for our members is built. It is a form of contract between us and the employer which means that they agree to negotiate and consult with us collectively over an agreed range of issues.
While the central University recognises trades unions, Oxford’s constituent colleges do not. The justification for this, where any has been offered, is that colleges are self-governing institutions and therefore do not require union representation for staff. This isn’t good enough.
With recognition, we would be able to bargain collectively over our pay, working conditions and workloads, and stand up to any changes in our contracts. We would have the right to be consulted about new policies and our reps would have paid time off to do union work like assisting members in disputes.
College-only lecturers and PGRs teaching for colleges are among the most exploited and precarious academic staff in the university. With preparation, marking, and admin factored in, hourly pay for college teaching often falls well below the Oxford Living Wage of £10.50. These pay rates are set by Conference of Colleges, the “forum for the Colleges of the University of Oxford to deal with matters of shared interest and common purpose.” Pay and conditions for academic and academic-related work should be agreed through negotiation with the UCU, not behind closed doors.
This isn’t just about UCU. We fully support the right of all college staff to be in a recognised trade union. In the case of support staff, this would be Unite and Unison.
Although UCU currently cannot collectively bargain with colleges, we can and frequently do offer guidance and support to members who are employed on college-only contracts. Oxford UCU case workers can also assist members who want to raise a formal grievance.
If you are interested in recognition for your college, then speak to your colleagues and get in touch with the branch.