Hundreds sign letter to UEA over protection for teaching staff roles

Hundreds sign letter to UEA asking to protect associate tutors jobs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hundreds sign letter to UEA asking to protect associate tutors jobs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

More than 300 people have signed an open letter to the University of East Anglia calling on it to protect the jobs of hundreds of junior and assistant teaching staff whose roles could be at greater risk over coronavirus.

The University of East Anglia Campus. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

The University of East Anglia Campus. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

The trade union for academic and academic-related staff at the University of East Anglia (UCU at UEA), is calling on the university council and vice chancellor to use any surplus budget to protect the jobs of teaching staff on short-term employment or low incomes.

The letter, which was presented to the council on Monday, June 22, comes after the institution announced a recruitment freeze in light of the coronavirus pandemic, a move UCU fears will put staff on short-term employment at risk of not being re-hired.

UEA said it understood concerns raised in the letter, and said it was doing what it could to support staff and students.

The UCU says it understands “Covid-19 has put the university under considerable financial stress” but says it feels the impact Covid-19 will have on the UEA’s budgets will be “most acutely felt” by associate tutors and research associates, cleaning and estate staff.

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It is also warning that if associate tutoring staff are not re-hired, the workload implications for other academic teaching staff will be “colossal”.

The letter says: “Since March, [these colleagues] have increased their workloads to swiftly respond to the Covid-19 pandemic...And yet many hundreds of these precariously employed colleagues face unemployment and loss of income, at a time of twin health and economic crisis.

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“We ask that any additional surplus which is an excess of [the minimum] be used to mitigate the impact of the recruitment freeze on associate tutor colleagues, and where possible, used to protect lower paid staff.”

A UEA spokesperson said the university understood the concerns raised by UCU’s letter. They said the UEA was “having to adapt to a new financial reality” and had prioritised support for staff and students.

They said: “We have brought in a number of measures to mitigate the short-term financial impact of Covid-19 including a recruitment freeze on all but essential new staff. Our goal is to ensure the university continues to be an excellent teaching and research institution which is able to support both staff, students and the wider regional economy.”

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