500 signatures reached
To: Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope and University Council
Union recognition for all Cambridge University staff
We are calling on the Vice-Chancellor/University Council to recognise all staff unions at the University of Cambridge and for these recognition agreements to cover all staff categories.
There are more than 150 public universities in the UK. Cambridge is the only one to deny recognition to all but a small proportion of their staff and it is the only public university that does not recognise UCU, the University and College Union. The vast majority of employees at the University of Cambridge do not have access to a union that is recognised by university management, severely curtailing their right to organise to improve their workplace conditions. This would be shameful for any university; for an institution of this prestige, it is nothing short of a scandal.
The University management has recently offered to extend union recognition to academic staff alone (those who have formal teaching roles). However, this offer excludes both academic related and research staff (for instance, postdocs, technicians, and librarians), who make up the vast majority of staff at the University. All staff deserve the right to be in a recognised union. We call on Cambridge to immediately negotiate a recognition agreement that covers all staff.
Why is this important?
Recognition is the situation where employers and unions agree on a joint framework, under which unions have the right to be consulted and to negotiate over working conditions and policy. This greatly benefits the University - drawing on the expertise of its staff. It is a normal expectation in our sector, and is internationally recognised within several International Labour Organization conventions (C87 and C98).
Without recognition, staff are denied the right for their representatives to sit on important decision-making committees, to collectively bargain with the university, and to have access to important documents that underpin policy changes that materially impact the working lives of staff.
It is no accident that Cambridge lags behind many other universities in the sector, offering lower than average rates of pay and subjecting staff to increased precarity through the use of casualised contracts, fixed-term contracts, and open-ended contracts that have insecurity built into them. Many of these issues are felt most strongly by the very sections of staff to which the University is refusing union recognition.
Whether we know it or not, we have all felt the impact of union non-recognition over the past year. The pandemic and the university’s response to it has ushered in dramatic changes to our working lives, from sudden unemployment, to working through the night or struggling to balance work with care responsibilities. Union recognition could have significantly improved this experience, granting union representatives the right to be included in important health and safety decisions that were made throughout the year.
It is time for all of this to change. It is time for the University of Cambridge to respect its workforce and recognise all staff unions.
Whether you are a union member or not, we all have a right to join a union and we all deserve those unions to be recognised by our employer.