Letter to Senior Management University of Brighton Regarding Demotion of Hourly Paid Lecturers

This is the text of a letter sent to the senior management team at University of Brighton on Tuesday 28th February by Precarious Workers Brighton. The letter includes a list of demands relating to the recent decision to demote hourly paid lecturers in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics. To this date, one week later, no response has been received from university management. They have made no acknowledgement of this letter.

To the Senior Management Team, University of Brighton,

We are a network of Hourly Paid Lecturers, staff on fixed term contracts, and students at the University of Brighton, who are organising to improve our working and studying conditions in the university. We are writing to inform you of our objection to the recent downgrading of Lecturers in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics. This decision has slashed the income of some of our colleagues by 70%, as well as meaning that a number of colleagues are no longer able to complete their PhD study, having had their fee waivers revoked as a result of their change in contractual status. We reject the Vice-Chancellor’s spurious justification for these demotions for a number of reasons. First, this downgrading has not been evenly distributed across the Computing department, where only some colleagues have been downgraded, which contradicts the statement that this was a correction of an administrative error rather than a demotion. Instead it demonstrates that it is the most vulnerable and insecurely employed staff who have been targeted. Second, we oppose entirely the downgrading of any member of staff who does not earn even the median wage in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

We wish for it to be noted that our hand has in part been forced by the fact that the university has refused the mediating action of the UCU, and has more broadly failed to resolve this issue in a way that secures the livelihoods of our colleagues. Indeed, the Senior Management Team has publicly stated that negotiations to resolve this issue would take place with the individuals affected by the downgrade. From attempts by our colleagues to open communication with key members of staff – such as Heads of School – about this issue, which have gone unheeded, we know that this is not the case.

We understand the downgrading of our colleagues in Computing as the first move in an attempt by the Senior Management Team to systematically attack the already inadequate pay and working conditions of Hourly Paid Lecturers in the university, consistent with the Vice-Chancellor’s stated desire to bring down the wage bill at Brighton. Calculations by our own group suggest that many Hourly Paid Lecturers – who account for a third of teaching delivery across the university – are earning less than £7 in real terms. This is, of course, less than the national minimum wage.

In order to protect the pay and working conditions of our colleagues in the Computing department, and of ourselves and other insecurely employed staff at the university, we are writing to demand the following:

•       The reinstatement of all staff who have been downgraded from lecturer to demonstrator, effective immediately;
•       Retrospective compensation for downgraded staff, reflective of what their pay should have been as lecturers over the period of time they have been paid their downgraded rate;
•       The reinstatement of fee waivers for all those who have lost them as a result of the downgrade;
•       A written and legally binding agreement that no further attempts to downgrade lecturing staff in any school in the university will be made.

We require you to respond to this email no later than Tuesday 7th March 2017. We hope that an amiable resolution to this issue can be found, and trust that the Senior Management Team will see that the present situation is both unsustainable and undesirable for the institution as a whole. If such an offer is not forthcoming, then we will respond appropriately.

Yours Sincerely,

Precarious Workers Brighton

 

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