This page contains updates on developments concerning Fixed Term Contracts and related matters, plus some useful links.
Fixed Term Contract Policy agreed:
Notwithstanding the challenging environment in which we are operating, your UMUCU representatives continue to achieve significant successes. Not least among these, we have finally hammered out a progressive policy on the use of Fixed Term Contracts that asserts the principle that staff should where at all possible be employed on permanent contracts and which establishes clear limitations on the initial use of and (especially) the continued use and/or renewal of FTCs. In particular, the policy explicitly embodies the legal presumption of permanency after four years' employment under successive FTCs (subject to a stringent and narrowly defined exception based on clear 'objective justifications') and abolishes the contentious and confusing hybrid category of the 'open-ended contract with reference to end dates/funding'. A joint Union/Management FTC Committee is now being established to ensure that the terms of the policy are applied consistently and rigorously across the University.
Final version of our agreement with university management: http://www.umucu.org.uk/ucu/PolicyAndProcedureOnContractsOfEmployment6December2010FINAL.pdf
Over the last year we have been meeting with HR to try and improve the policies and procedures with regard to staff on fixed-term contracts. We consider that there are two main issues here:
Some progress has been made, and in particular the university seem to have accepted that there are just two kinds of contract, permanent contracts and fixed-term contracts. We hope that there will be further progress in improving terms and conditions; however, much still remains to be done. In particular, there are many staff who have been on FTCs for many years, and ought by now to have been transferred to permanent contracts. We would urge all staff in this situation to request confirmation of their transfer to a permanent contract (download a sample letter).
For national UCU information on FTCs and casual contracts, see the UCU site.
There is a revised version of the letter requesting confirmation of transfer to a permanent contract. Under the Fixed-term Employees [Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment] Regulations 2002 you are entitled to a permanent contract with the university if you have been employed for 4 years or more on fixed-term contracts including at least one renewal unless there is an objective justification.
Download the new version of the letter here.
There has been a landmark employment tribunal ruling in Aberdeen concerning the transfer from fixed-term to permanent contract. There is a briefing here and a complete copy of the ruling here.
Fixed Term Contract Working Party - Review Meeting 22 May 07.
The last meeting of this Working Party was August 2006. We reconvened expecting to review implementation of the conclusions of that earlier meeting (the tentative agreements on the policy to transfer staff off FTCs and on to OECs). These were also to be formally agreed between union and university. This never happened. Now we know why. The new Director of HR has withdrawn that vesrion of the policy for further consideration.
In addition, it now transpires that progress on converting contracts has been patchy at best and there are still hundreds of members of staff on the books who had had to put up with FTcs for many, many years. The most significant element of the draft policy was the statement of Objective Reasons - the reasons that an employer must state if they wish to impose an FTC on a member of staff who has been here for four years and has had at least one extenson to their original contract.
The new Director of HR believes that this will allow 'too many' conversions from FTCs to OECs and the university cannot afford it. Thus there is now no agreement on mutually acceptable Objective Reasons between the union and the university. We envisage that most will not be acceptable to UMUCU.
This means a lot of work for our lawyers and this was pointed out at that meeting. So - what is the current advice to members of staff currently on Fixed Term Contracts who believe they are entitled by law to have an Open Ended Contract? It is simply join the union.
The Ulster Case One of the first Tribunal decisions following the implementation of FTWR. If there are any lessons to be drawn, it is 'if you can do some taeching, do it'. An issue that the Tribunal has to decide is whether you have selected a fair comparator. One of the problems a researcher might face is that without doing any teaching it will be more difficult to get the tribunal to accept a member of lecturing staff as a comparator. The panel's view of the HR director's arguments as "simply breathtaking in their arrogance and inadequacy" might make it just a litte more difficult for the Ulster Director of HR to ever get another job.
UMUCU was pressing forward with Employment Tribunal proceedings for a FTC member who was being made redundant. UMUCU were challenging the Objective Reasons offered by the university. The matter was settled before the tribunal sat and the member now has an open-ended contract.
10 July 2006 has come and gone, and we will see how successfull the University is in switching the majority of FTCs to Open contracts. A Working Group has at last been meeting to reccommend policies and procedures. On it are representatives of the three campus unions together with the Director of HR, Associate VP for Research, and an HR manager. Here's what you can do.
Pay settlement. This brought significant and substantial increases for colleagues near bottom of the scales. This is the most tangible result of the AUT's strike last year which directly led to the inclusion of the 'No Detriment' clause in the 2005 Pay Deal.
Yet another academic report highlighting the insecurity of fixed-term contracts ' ....there is strong evidence that it causes uncertainty, personal distress, and leads to avoidable mobility of staff tpwards the end of fixed term contracts...'. It is 'Resolving Human Issues in LIS Projects' (go to Reports) published by the Higher Education Consultancy Group for the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Research Support Libraries Programme.
Publication of the Select Committee on Science and Technology report on short-term research contracts of employment. Quite a damming indictment of the academic establishment.
The Education Guardian article on it.
The government has furnished its response to the report, also interesting reading.
What you ought to know about the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002
This law is now effective (from October 2002), and the unions have had a dialogue with employers, at a national level, about how to interpret the law. The result of this is the JNCHES Guidance for Higher Education Institutions on Fixed-Term and Casual Employment
In practical terms, it means that from now on the clock is running. The university can give you a succession of fixed-term contracts until a period of 4 years have elapsed. They cannot give you another one unless they can justify it. The reasons for justification have yet to be negotiated with the unions.