4. Job security for every worker in written collective agreements and zero tolerance for discrimination

The problems

UK universities can be the best places to work, but in many cases are becoming the worst for job security, particularly through casualisation of early career colleagues. Every “zero hours contract” is a scar on our sector, because they should be considered not just unlawful but immoral. We are plagued by fixed-term contracts driven by a defective research funding model. Discriminatory dismissals are rife. Failed managements threaten redundancies when they have messed up, and try to drive through restructures without proper negotiation and consultation. On top of this we have gender, race and disability pay gaps, showing a growing inequality in our workplaces.

The solutions

All of this must end, and we must win back our job security through collective bargaining and full enforcement of our legal rights. At King’s, we had no written collective agreement for over a decade, to codify management and union duties for negotiation, consultation and information, or set out a dispute resolution process. We wrote it, and sealed the deal with our partners at Unison and Unite, to re-establish a working relationship of mutual trust and confidence. No university, no college, should be without a written collective agreement. So as we restore a functioning national system of sectoral collective bargaining, we will also restore enterprise bargaining on top of our nationwide sectoral bargaining, to raise rights locally, experiment, and build up best practice. We will support every branch to ensure every university and college abides by its duties of consultation and information for restructuring or proposed changes to contracts: no change without consent. We will enforce these rights, and if some university or college managements aren’t used to negotiating, or don’t feel like it, we will impose statutory fines upon them, and throw every rule in the book at them, for every violation. We will support every branch that aims to restore meaningful powers to elected Academic Boards or Senates, as they should have, to protect security and innovation. Above all, we will restore collective bargaining on the basis of good faith.

One more point: security and equality are personal to me. Like most other people entering the UK workforce, I worked on successive part-time, fixed-term contracts before and after my Ph.D., having to reapply for my job each year, not being sure if I could pay the rent and the bills. I worked through agencies throughout school and university. Too many of my friends, family and colleagues have faced discrimination, and I have worked my whole career on combatting sexism, racism, ablism, anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice, xenophobia and for equality, including winning in the employment tribunals. We need uphold the promise of universal human rights with fair pay, equality and justice for everyone, and become a model of equality and security for the whole country.

How we do it

We will protect job security using every tool in the box – collective, legal and public action by:

  • bargaining for every workplace to have a written collective agreement, enshrining job security rights,
  • bargaining for better job security through Academic Boards and Senates, to restore tenure,
  • enforcing every employer’s statutory duties of consultation and negotiation, and anti-discrimination,
  • defending every single member who suffers discrimination to the law’s full extent, and pursuing personal responsibility for wrongdoing, under the Equality Act 2010 section 110,
  • lobbying the government for better statutory dismissal protection, in a new deal for working people.

More reading on job security and structural foundations of discrimination:

  • Z Adams, L Bishop, S Deakin, C Fenwick, SM Garzelli and G Rusconi, ‘The economic significance of laws relating to employment protection and different forms of employment: Analysis of a panel of 117 countries, 1990–2013’ (2019) 158(1) International Labour Review 1-35
  • M Otsuka, ‘Is there academic tenure in the UK?’ (5 August 2019) Medium
  • E McGaughey, A Casebook on Labour Law (Hart 2019) chs 12-14 (discrimination, disdavantage, inclusion) and chs 16-19 (job security)