UCU launches Recognition Now campaign to fight for union recognition for all Cambridge University staff

Cambridge is the only public university in the UK that does not yet recognise the UCU

The University and College Union (UCU) held a virtual launch for its Recognition Now campaign on Wednesday night (05/05) to lobby the University to initiate a recognition agreement which would cover all staff. 

According to UCU Cambridge, the University recently offered to extend union recognition to academic staff (covering lecturers, readers, and professors), but are still denying this right to academic-related and research staff (including postdocs, technicians, and librarians), who constitute the vast majority of University staff. 

UCU Cambridge members rejected this deal, saying that “academic-related and research staff wouldn’t get a seat at the table” and affirming that they are “campaigning for a deal that works for all the staff groups we represent”.

The campaign intends to put pressure on the University to expand the terms of this agreement to cover all staff categories. 

Trade union recognition refers to the process by which a formal agreement is made with an employer for the union in question to take on collective bargaining on behalf of the employer’s staff, particularly concerning pay, hours, holiday, health and safety, and redundancy. 

The campaign also launched a petition for union recognition for all University staff addressed to vice-chancellor, Stephen Toope, and the University Council. As of 8 May, the petition holds over 720 signatures. 

The petition describes the University’s refusal extend union recognition as “nothing short of a scandal”, saying that, as it stands, “staff are denied the right for their representatives to sit on important decision-making committees, to collectively bargain with the university, and to have access to important documents that underpin policy changes that materially impact the working lives of staff”.

The new launch is part of an ongoing campaign by the UCU, which held a similar launch for union recognition in January of this year in response to the University offering to recognise only academic staff with formal teaching roles.

This dispute comes as the University is already under increasing pressure from the Anti-Casualisation Campaign run by Cambridge UCU and the Graduate Union, after the UCU’s 2019 hourly-paid teaching report found that 34 per cent of supervision teaching was being provided by staff without a long-term contract and that 39 per cent of staff survey respondents reported being paid less than the Real Living Wage. 

On 15 April, Cambridge UCU and the Cambridge SU launched their Justice for College Supervisors campaign, calling for “paid training, a revision of the supervision pay rate to reflect the full number of hours spent on class preparation, and employment contracts for all casualised teachers who supervise undergraduates”.

As part of this campaign, last month hundreds of supervisors at the University’s constituent colleges petitioned senior college representatives for fairer pay, more secure contracts, and better working conditions.

The University did not respond to a request for comment.

Feature image: Cambridge UCU

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