Over 4,000 associate lecturers at the Open University will have better job security and rights after members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted to accept a permanent contract. An overwhelming 94% of UCU members who voted backed the deal.
The union said the new contract would provide more stable employment and allow staff to prove a continuous source of income, which is important for securing a mortgage or when renting. The deal also increases associate lecturers’ annual leave entitlement and paid time off for professional development.
Under the old contract associate lecturers were at risk of losing their jobs if student numbers dropped on their module. By moving to a secure contract, redundancy is a last resort rather than the first option.
The union said the deal was a result of years of negotiations and that it hoped to secure further improvements in areas such as annual leave. UCU said other universities should look to the Open University as an example of how to deal with the challenge of supporting the casual workforce, instead of trying to sweep the issue under the carpet.
UCU regional official Lydia Richards said:
The new contract is a huge step forward for associate lecturers at the Open University. It means they are free from the fear of being out of work if there is a fluctuation in student numbers.
Other universities could learn a lot from the way the Open University has approached this issue. We need to move away from a hiring and firing culture and ensure better security for staff. Universities should be looking to negotiate with the union, not trying to sweep the issue of casual employment under the carpet.
You can find out more abut UCU and how to join them here.