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Tag Archives: contracts
News reaches subtext that, in an email to line managers on Wednesday 25 March, the Vice-Chancellor has announced a complete freeze on all external recruitment at Lancaster. Where an offer has already been made, this will be honoured, but all other appointments and vacancies are to be frozen.
The VC informs managers that ‘we are having to review our short to medium position regarding staff recruitment and all other costs in light of the significantly altered financial and operating position. You will be aware that we communicated last week a deferral of the most significant capital projects; i.e. the next phase of the LUMS development, the refurbishment of the east estate, and the construction of the new Engineering building. Other changes to the capital programme will follow.’ As a result, ‘all external recruitment (including through ERS) with immediate effect is being placed on hold until further notice.’
The existing vacancy control process for Professional Services staff will now apply to all roles, including ERS (the University’s in-house employment agency that lets them hire people on zero hours contracts while pretending not to have any staff on zero hours contracts) positions and proposed extensions to fixed term contracts. The process will assess whether vacancies are ‘strategically critical roles’ where the freeze should not apply.
There is some reassurance: ‘we need to ensure we are, where possible, providing job security to our existing staff and mitigating the cessation of fixed term contracts. This will require us to think differently and creatively as we redeploy staff and share our resources.’ Furthermore, ‘we will automatically place all fixed term contracts due to come to a natural end on the redeployment register.’
Fixed term staff awaiting transfer to indefinite status, as promised by the University’s new policy, are likely to be disappointed: ‘we are mindful that work is due to start in respect of the new Fixed Term Contracts Policy and this work will continue as best it can do in light of COVID-19 context. However, managers should still keep fixed term contracts under review as normal.’
This announcement will hardly have come as a surprise to anyone – after all, how many overseas students do you think we’re realistically likely to recruit for the coming year? Your subtext drones wonder how equipped the university would be, or more likely would not be, to weather a significant one-year drop in student numbers without redundancies.
We should perhaps be grateful we are not at the University of Sussex, which reportedly announced on Wednesday 25 March that all temporary contracts should be ‘terminated where possible’:
As subtext goes to press, 44 vacancies are still being advertised at: https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/
As the most recent Head of Department of the late School of Independent Studies, I am assuming I can consider inviting myself to authorise my own access to the University’s IT and email?
Reading the letters in subtext 192, I was struck by a sense of deja vu. Continuing members continuing to be insulted by the management on the strange basis that providing them with such things as an email address is costly to the university. I wrote before, a long time ago, pointing out that no real calculation of costs of providing IT and library access to continuing members had been made.
It is not legitimate to calculate that cost by dividing the entire cost of these services by the total number of users, to get a prime cost per head, and then to multiply that by the number of continuing members. Prime cost per head and marginal cost are not the same thing. Provision of services to continuing members only costs anything if it means extra staff have to be hired, extra servers bought or leased, more books purchased, et cetera. Until marginal cost has been correctly calculated, there is no case for alienating this group of former colleagues. If the real marginal cost has been calculated, then I think we ought to be told what that is and how it was arrived at, in order to be able to make a judgement about management’s stance, right or wrong, on this question.
Dr Richard Austen-Baker
Senior Lecturer in Law
Lancaster University Law School
My attention was drawn by a recent news story on the University Portal page, ‘Fixed-term contracts and casual working policy: update’.
One line particularly jumped out at me, which I’m sure colleagues in the Linguistics Department could devote entire research articles to: Paul Boustead, Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development said, ‘Our aim is to continue the effective partnership exhibited throughout the construction of this policy whilst we further mature the roll out plan.’
On the basis of this alone, I think Director Boustead deserves a promotion, as this is a truly visionary refashioning of the English language and sure to become a classic case study on postgraduate Management Discourse modules across the country. Meanwhile, as I celebrate a decade of casual contracts at Lancaster University, I will continue in the hope of rolled out plans being effectively exhibited before I mature any further.
[Truly in keeping with our Quaker value of Simplicity – ed.]
In response to the letter from the frustrated Dr Noel Cass, I think we need to address some of the confusion over the new indefinite contracts. Indefinite contracts can now be given to those whose work is externally funded with a finite end as is the case with many research projects, as Noel points out. The word indefinite suggests that the contract will provide security when the funding runs out, but this is not the case. At the end point of the project, the position for the staff member on the indefinite contract is exactly as it would have been on a fixed term contract, redeployment list access/redundancy. In these circumstances indefinite is not indefinite.
As much as I was disappointed by this situation, a friend did point out that the other benefits of having an indefinite contract are important too. It sometimes makes a difference when applying for mortgages, if your contract is indefinite, and there might be a positive impact with some maternity/paternity/adoption leave scenarios. Sadly, fixed term funding can delay people buying houses and starting a family, due to the financial uncertainty.
In the last edition of subtext we reported on the problems of staff on termly contracts and their inability to get a staff bus pass. subtext has learnt of similar problems concerning hourly paid teaching staff who drive to work, and although we have historically avoided publishing stories about parking, we felt this one needed some further discussion on the grounds that a group of staff who are already marginalised and on insecure contracts were being treated unfairly.
Teaching staff attending the security building to renew their staff parking permit for the academic year were somewhat shocked to be told that unlike last year, they are no longer eligible for a staff permit. No prior warning, no correspondence informing them of this change in policy. Despite offering to pay the same amount as they had paid last year – and perhaps more importantly, the same amount as other staff still pay (!) – they were told that they are not eligible for a staff permit and would have to park ‘at the bottom end of the campus’.
The fact Lancaster University is situated on a hill is coincidental but this is highly symbolic; those ‘at the top’ (i.e. ‘proper’ staff) were deemed to be worthier in that they are given the ‘right’ to park in a more convenient location, over those ‘at the bottom’. For those staff, the issue with parking ‘at the bottom’ is not related to laziness but is more about feelings of inequality and the apparent power imbalance.
Why is it that these staff are no longer eligible? Is it because they are not ‘full-time’ members of staff. No. So it must be because they are ‘part-time’ members of staff. Well, no. Apparently the explanation given is that due to a lack of parking and over-subscription for permits, a review (which was not communicated to those concerned) had concluded that restrictions needed to be made and teaching staff who are also undertaking a PhD were the group to be targeted for cut backs. Staff-students have been discriminated against over both full-time and part-time staff who are not studying alongside their teaching. Essential teaching staff are vital for our Part I delivery and are apparently valued members of the research community when we tell stories during our strategic reviews and in our REF narratives. Welcome to the inclusive academic community.
Oh, and for those members of staff (regardless of status) who don’t have a permit at all, it seems there has been another price hike. The car park by the tennis courts has tripled in price from £1 per day to £3 per day. Thus endeth our gripe about parking.