Staff and students joined together at Birmingham University today, to stage a protest against moves by the University to increase workload by two extra months.
Holding mock calendars featuring the two new months – which they labelled “Drainuary” and “Stresstember” – the protestors highlighted the far-fetched nature of the University’s new workload model in their demonstration.
The protest comes after the University management moved to introduce a new workload model which increases the existing workload by up to two months’ additional work. This, the lecturers’ union UCU claimed, represented an entirely unrealistic attempt to squeeze yet more work out of academic and academic-related staff.
University of Birmingham UCU branch president, Dr Roland Brandstaetter, said, “It appears that the University of Birmingham is reluctant to appoint a sufficient number of staff, despite multi-million surpluses every year, and intends to make up for a shortfall in staff by increasing the workload of the existing staff. Those who work at the University of Birmingham already frequently work above the 48 hour European recommended limit and suffer from the symptoms of stress. The already excessive workloads provide insufficient time to conduct proper teaching and research and this impacts on the wellbeing and work-life balance of staff in an unacceptable way. The quality of the education provided to students is suffering too when lecturers are overworked and stressed. Our student-staff ratios, i.e. the number of students per member of staff, are already among the worst in the Russell Group Universities.”
The University of Birmingham has recently been in the crossfire for being one of the Universities with the most “zero hour”-type contracts in the country and also one of the highest numbers of settlement payments. This suggests endeavours to reduce permanent staff numbers, and at the same time to increase the workload of remaining staff and staff on casualised and zero-hour contracts, all of which will negatively impact on the delivery of education to students who still pay £9000 per year and contribute to more than 50% of the overall income of the University.
University of Birmingham UCU branch secretary, Dr David Bailey, said, “If the University of Birmingham wishes to be a world-leading university, then it needs to improve its employment practices, recruit sufficient staff and allow them the proper amount of time to do their work. We are already one of the universities with the most “zero hour”-type contracts in the country, and now the University wants to conjure up two new months to create a fictional 14 month calendar.”
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