Endorsement from Ms Matilda Fitzmaurice, Durham University
In 2018, like many precarious and hourly-paid staff, I spent many hours freezing on the picket line with my securely employed colleagues to help them defend their USS pensions. So, like many other Graduate Teaching Assistants and ECRs, I was bitterly disappointed when the most recent strike ballot on HE pay and equality returned a below 50% turnout.
I am endorsing Dr Jo Grady as UCU General Secretary because the normalisation of precarious HE and FE employment has to stop. Spending years eking out a living on casual contracts post-PhD should not be normalised as an unavoidable ‘rite of passage’. The teaching, committee duties and other services we postgraduate researchers provide to universities, while significant, are often woefully underpaid. Precarious contracts and employment practices, which affect professional services staff as much as academic staff (if not more so), are making HE an intolerable sector to work in for so many colleagues, and making an academic or HE career achievable only for the most fortunate few. This is a gross injustice not only to those forced to leave the sector, but also in terms of the wasted research talent and the well-being of our students, who deserve to be taught by securely employed staff who can afford to plan ahead.
I am backing Jo because her manifesto recognises that insecure work marginalises colleagues who are already under-represented in HE; inequalities which are themselves exacerbated by the Hostile Environment. All postgraduate researchers and ECRs deserve to be able to consider a career in the sector to which we have dedicated so much of our time, money, skills, and care. We deserve a union that is prepared to fight for us.