Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 13- November 2002
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go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Research Funding Campaign

A great time was had by all those who attended our rally protesting against the omission of university research funding from the draft NI budget. We assembled at QUB War Memorial at lunch-time on 6 November and received a blessing from Pro-Vice-Chancellor Ken Bell. We then joined colleagues from the University of Ulster and the Open University in Belfast outside Adelaide House, the HQ of the Department of Employment and Learning. By then our numbers had swollen to near 200. We got television, radio and press coverage of our case. There are pictures on our website quis.qub.ac.uk/aut

The next big event was a reception at Stormont for MLAs and business leaders in which QUB management were the lead organiser. This has been followed recently by a meetings at Westminister with Northern Ireland MP's organised by UU. AUT was involved in both of these and the events were generally judged to be a success. Of course the only people who can actually change the draft budget are the direct rule ministers and QUB has met with all the relevant ones. AUT, as an organisation and as individuals, has been lobbying MPs, local politicians and business people to make our case to the ministers. It is generally acknowledged that we have a strong case, but there are always competing pressures within a budget. The outcome will be announced in mid-December.

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Fixed-term Contract and Casual Staff

Several years ago QUB management agreed that anybody who is employed on fixed-term contracts for seven years continuously by QUB should be transferred to an indefinite contract. Senate also decreed that where work was paid for by general funds (e.g. most teaching) and would continue indefinitely, indefinite, rather than fixed-term, posts should be offered. Unfortunately we have encountered many apparent breaches of this second undertaking. Now the situation has been radically change by two recent developments.

As a result of European legislation, The Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 came into effect on 1 October. The right not to be less favourably treated applies from 1 October 2002. The abolition of the waiver clause applies to any contract entered into or renewed after 1 October 2002. The right for employment beyond four years to be considered permanent unless there is a stated and accepted objective justification, will apply to employment from 10 July 2002 (i.e. not before 2006).

The purpose of the legislation is:

to protect employees engaged on fixed-term contracts from being treated less favourably than comparable employees on indefinite contracts;
to prevent the potential abuse of continuous use of fixed-term contracts by limiting the overall duration of a series of fixed-term contracts to 4 continuous years (after 1 October 2002) after which the contract automatically becomes indefinite unless there is a justifiable objective reason for it continuing as a fixed-term contract
to ensure that employers inform fixed-term employees of vacancies within their organisation
to provide for collective or workplace agreements with either a trade union or other worker representatives to modify the effect of the provisions regarding successive fixed-term contracts.

At national level there has been an agreement between AUT and Universities UK (the V-Cs' national body) on Fixed-Term and Casual Employment, Guidance for Higher Education Institutions. The guidance deliberately seeks to go beyond the statutory minimum because of the inequalities that will arise between the rights of staff appointed at different times.

"Fair and flexible employment arrangements should reflect the following principles:

"The successful application of these principles depends on recognition by institutions and staff that:

"Institutions should consider proposals to implement these principles in partnership with the locally recognised unions." Belfast AUT have approached QUB management about local implementation and we will meet soon.

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QUB is in the final stages of introducing a code on research misconduct and a procedure to deal with it. This is a necessary condition for the University to continue to be eligible to receive grants from the Wellcome Trust and most Research Councils. It is an interesting comment on what may be the driving force behind some sorts of research misconduct that the Research Councils have insisted that the reporting and investigation of alleged misconduct be independent of line management. So there will soon be a call for experienced researchers to volunteer to form a pool of assessors from which an Investigation Panel will be drawn. In addition there will be a Research Governance Officer whom you should approach if you have a suspicion of research misconduct. He/she will organise an investigation. If necessary the report could be used in a disciplinary procedure.

Research misconduct does not cover just the falsification of results and sloppy or dangerous techniques, and there is a long list of potential faults. These include not giving someone proper credit for their contribution to the research, and also adding to the authors someone who has not made a real contribution. Anybody who incites others to commit research misconduct is also covered. If you have been put under pressure to commit research misconduct, especially in the field of authorship, or have been the victim of it, you should approach an AUT Officer.

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Contract Research Staff

Besides the new protections for fixed-term staff described above, contract research staff have other rights under the Concordat which was signed between the CVCP and all the major Research Councils. It promises: "....rewards and other terms and conditions of service for contract research staff (for example, rates of pay, provisions for leave and sick leave, pensions, access to facilities) which are in line with those for established staff...." Also: "Maternity leave and pay provisions for contract staff should be in line with the provisions for established staff... " There is also a promise of extra grant payments to cover the cost of maternity leave or of sick leave in excess of 3 months.

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The Value of Research

There have been recent complaints that regional communities do not fully understand the value of university research. How fully have issues been understood within universities? Has there been a focus on research as the production of publications and inventions, which are delivered into the public domain, obtain certain positions in scholarly communities, with these positions formalised and translated into RAE grades, to which exchange values are attached (previously on a national not regional basis), with less attention to the use value of research activity for the region and locality? A crucial issue would be whether local value is created directly from publications and inventions or from the cultural effects of the process of their creation.

Making writings and inventions public can be regarded as contributing to universal labour:

They [universal and communal labour] both play their part in the production process, and merge into one another, but they are each different as well. Universal labour is all scientific work, all discovery and invention. It is brought about partly by the co-operation of men now living, but partly also by building on earlier work. Communal labour, however, simply involves the direct co-operation of individuals.

(Marx, 1981, p.199)

The communal, including individual, intellectual labour of researchers would characteristically make a small contribution to the universal labour embodied in writings and inventions.

Communal intellectual labour has other, more immediately dialogic, functions. When discussing a text or process with colleagues or students, we are reawakening the universal labour embodied in that text or process, transforming it from a dead to a living state. The quality of the dialogue may be enhanced by a striving to produce significant research products. The value of university research to local communities might then lie primarily with the communal labour of the researchers - the direct co-operation of individuals - rather than directly with the products they contribute to universal labour.

The most important knowledge product from a university would then be knowledgeable and responsive graduates, a position acutely relevant to Northern Ireland.

Marx, K. (1981). Capital: A critique of political economy. Volume Three. Introduced by Ernest Mandel. Translated by David Fernbach. Harmondsworth etc.: Penguin Books in association with New Left Review.

Julian Warner

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Equal Opportunity Meetings

The national AUT meeting for equal opportunity groups (other than gender) took place in London on 1 March.

The plenary meeting was preceded by separate meetings for black and ethnic minority members, for disabled members and for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender members.

A record of these meetings are published as national circulars LA7236 to LA7239. These are available on the national AUT website (www.aut.org.uk) ; go to policy & publications then national circulars and enter the number of the LA document required in the box. Next year the national meetings will take place on Thursday 27 February. Details are available in LA 7267. These will be preceded by local meetings for black and ethnic minority members on 13 January (1 p.m. in Old staff Common Room, Lanyon West), for disabled members on 17 January (1 p.m. in Old staff Common Room, Lanyon West) and for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender members on 15 January (1 p.m. in Old staff Common Room, Lanyon West). If you want details of these meetings or to be keep up to date on these issues, please contact the local AUT office (ext 3256).

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Open Meeting for Contract Staff

There will be an open meeting for all academic and related staff (such as research staff and teaching assistants) who are employed on fixed term contracts.

We cannot reliably contact all such staff and so we ask you to bring the meeting to the notice of anybody whom you may think is in this category.

The meeting is at
1 p.m. on Wednesday 8th January
Old Staff Common Room, Lanyon West

The main purpose of the meeting is to:

Detail are in LA 7267

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Committee Elections

Although the local Officers and General Members are elected at our AGM in June, the constituency representatives are elected at this time of year by single transferable vote. The constituencies are:

  1. The Faculty of Humanities,
  2. The Faculty of Legal, Social and Educational Sciences,
  3. The Faculty of Science and Agriculture,
  4. The Faculty of Engineering,
  5. The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences,
  6. Administrative Staff,
  7. Library Staff,
  8. Research Staff,
  9. Computer Staff

If you have any doubts as to which constituency you are in you should consult me.
Each nomination for each constituency shall be made from the membership of that constituency by two members of that constituency and must be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee. It should be sent to me by 5 p.m. on 8th January 2003. We are particularly anxious for nominations for Humanities and for Engineering.

Paul Hudson, ext 3157, email p.hudson@qub.ac.uk

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Formal General Meeting

Our last General Meeting was just short of a quorum, and so we were not able to formally approve the Local Association accounts for last year. In accordance with our rules, we will now hold a formal General Meeting with a reduced quorum. The sole business of this meeting is to approve the accounts. It will be on Wednesday 18 December in 106 Peter Froggatt Centre at 1 p.m.

Susan Harte, Lifelong Learning


© 2002 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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