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On the current pay dispute: The importance of tackling casualisation

A message from Michael Kyriacou, Anti-Casualisation Officer

Members,

When you think of pay, casualisation might not be the first thing that comes into your mind. I’m sure you are rightfully annoyed at the real term decline in the value of your wages. I’m sure you are concerned that the last pay rise above inflation was in 2014. While these are real and pressing issues, whenever we look at pay we also need to look at our contracts. We need to look at how and in what form our employer deals with us, not just as individuals, but also as a collective. The truth is that the industry and UEA has built itself on casualised labour. We need to be clear that this is not out of some economic necessity. No, casualisation is a conscious decision taken by employers throughout the industry and our employer here at UEA. It is a mode of employment that propagates insecurity and depresses wages for all of us. Casualisation is not just an early career issue. Casualisation is an industrial issue. It organises our institution and its prevalence allows us to see how the employer understands its workforce: as replaceable and disposable. For these reasons we must take every opportunity possible to resist our labour and our workforce being casualised. We need to demand a respectful workplace. We need to demand a healthy workplace and we need to demand a fair rate of pay and a secure contract for that work. We should remember that national action gives us local leverage. These are the reasons I, as a fixed-term member of staff and as your anti-casulisation officer, will be voting yes and yes on the ballot. These are the reasons for which I would urge you to vote yes and yes on the ballot.

I have also been contacted by casualised members of staff who are voting yes and yes on the ballot. Here are their reasons:

‘‘I voted ‘yes’ for strike action and action short of a strike because I am concerned about the well-being of myself and my colleagues under what seems an unending force of increased workloads, casualised labour, and unequal pay.’

 ‘I am voting yes & yes because PGR tuition fees increase year on year but wages for staff (including ATs who are often PGR students and undertake the bulk of the teaching load in many schools) have not changed since 2014. Which not only makes me feel undervalued, as an employee, but also to conclude that the university earns a profit from its students which is not reflected in the way it treats its staff.’

‘I am voting yes in the ballot because as academia becomes an increasingly competitive, and work intensive market, demanding more from its employees, there seems little investment in ensuring they are fairly paid. This becomes especially problematic given the impact of inflation is having on wages, taking value from employees, regardless of the increasing pressures within academic institutions.’ 

‘My friend told me they can’t afford to go on strike. And it’s true, I can’t either. But also I can’t afford to keep being strung along on term-time only, hourly paid, casualised contracts. I’m voting Yes/Yes because I’m skint either way, but at least strike action/ASoS might help eventually change that.’

‘I’m voting Yes not only for myself, not only for my colleagues, but also for students and the future of higher education. It’s time universities truly valued those who contribute to the research and education they purport to care so much about. It’s time they truly lived up to being #HomeOfTheWonderful’