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Demands from the PGRs as Staff Campaign following stalling negotiations

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Since June 2022, when the UCU boycott agreement (read Sussex UCU press release) was reached with university management, UCU PGR reps have been working on negotiations towards a new DT contract. As PGRs at Sussex, we are negotiating with management to secure an ambitious DT contract that seeks to resolve FIVE KEY ISSUES affecting working PGRs at Sussex. The 5 key issues from our PGR Demands Letter being discussed in negotiations can be found here: 'As agreed in the joint statement that brought the marking boycott to a close, UCU representatives present their demands below for amendments and additions to the 2016 UCU and HR agreement for Doctoral tutors. This will feed into an expanded and revised baseline contract for Post-Graduate Researchers who teach at Sussex from September 2023 onwards. All demands should be standardised across all schools and departments in the university.

1. Communications 1.1. Eligibility to sick leave, bereavement leave, parental and adoption leave, as well as access to occupational health and trainings should be communicated from Human Resources and/or centrally communicated by each school at the commencement of each term. 1.2. Teaching offers should provide a clear breakdown of multiplier by workload, rate of pay, payslip, and projected pay each month (showing the conversion from hours to fractional pay). 1.3. Line management structures and responsibilities (of both line manager and PGR) should be outlined at the beginning of a contract. 2. Terms and conditions 2.1. Continuity of service, and previous time teaching, should be recognised when calculating entitlement to sick, parental, adoption and bereavement leave. PGRs in their first term of employment should be immediately entitled to full leave entitlement. 2.2. A new streamlined pathway should be designed for PGRs to access reasonable adjustments prior to Week 0 of teaching (i.e.: over the Summer). 2.3. PGRs should be able to access assessments of learning difficulties/other disabilities free of charge. 3. Career progression, training and redeployment 3.1. All training should be paid, whether attending (per hour) or delivering (including preparation, source gathering, and at a higher rate of pay). 3.2. The university should provide, at the appropriate level, more training and support around: decolonising syllabuses; mental health support (for PGRs); signposting and pastoral care (for students); dealing with sensitive topics in class; and training on challenging racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism in and outside the classroom. 3.3. PGRs with appropriate continuity of service should have access to redeployment options for university vacancies. 3.4. Where multiple calls for posts are required (where teaching demand is higher than local supply), schools and departments should ensure calls for teaching are open and extended internally to PGRs across the university. 4. Hiring processes and allocation 4.1. Hiring and allocation processes should be transparent and formalised with standard hiring practices and timelines for all schools and departments. 4.2. All schools should issue an offer of provisional allocation to PGRs in line with the first release of the teaching timetable. 4.3. Written and dated contracts should be issued at the earliest opportunity but no later than Week 0 with information on your updated increment of pay for subsequent years teaching. 4.4. The department or school should arrange for a formal onboarding process and budget for initial meetings between convenors and PGRs. 4.5. The current cap (180 hours) should be removed with no limit to teaching allocated beyond requirements of Tier 4 visa. 4.6. All schools should agree to consistent, fair, transparent allocation across the eligible cohort of PGRs prioritising those with limited teaching experience. 5. Remuneration 5.1. PGR teaching staff should be paid for all hours worked and pay should be adjusted to reflect contracted work. This could be achieved by raising the baseline, or otherwise amending, the multiplier (i.e.: x8 for first teaching group and x5 for subsequent). ​​Agreed hours and pay should reflect the time that is required to perform the duties including but not limited to: delivery; preparation (including attending lectures and engaging in reading to enable preparation); meetings with other teaching staff; marking and assessment; student support (including online meetings and responding to emails); and training and development. 5.2. Baseline workload tariffs for PGRs teaching should be developed and standardised across the university. 5.3. All PGR teaching staff should be paid at Grade 6 with the Grade 5 role regraded (to reflect, in part, increased group size, for example). 5.4. Contract lengths should be increased and set at a minimum of 12 weeks (to accommodate week 0, such as training and preparation and week 12, including student support and marking preparation). This should be paid over a 4-month period. If the hours outlined in the contract are exceeded, additional hours’ payments should be made. 5.5. The university should prohibit the employment of PGRs through outsourcing. All PGR roles currently contracted to third parties (i.e.: Reed) should be immediately returned in-house.’

These demands are drawing from the PGR as Staff survey, sent out to PGRs at Sussex a few months ago, as well as ongoing conversations between members, PGR organisers, professional services and faculty. These are not only basic employment entitlements that all members of staff at Sussex should have but something that will help to mitigate the precarity facing PGRs working in university, especially during the cost of living crisis. Organising as staff has been vital in helping UCU reach wins towards pensions and workload in other workstream negotiations (read more here, on the latest Sussex UCU newsletter). DT negotiations are now the last remaining workstream ongoing in acknowledgement of the larger scope of redrafting a new contract for PGR staff. However, negotiations have stalled, and we are now planning to apply more pressure, and ensure negotiations continue and conclude by March 2023 as agreed upon in the original joint statement between UCU and University management. As a result, we will be launching a postcard campaign during our PGR as Staff Campaign Kick Off hybrid event on University of Sussex campus, and on zoom, on Wednesday 16th November! We will be demanding that these negotiating conversations continue and that the five key PGR issues listed above are meaningfully addressed by management. We will be seeking as many signatures as possible, online and on physical copies, to deliver to the university and display the scale of support for PGRs as Staff. For more information and to sign up to attend the event, please contact Kam Meakin at, Nat Arias at, or Tom Cowin at and we will keep you updated about further campaigning plans.


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