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UCU Cambridge calls for boycott of supervisions next term

The #Justice4CollegeSupervisors campaign asks for a boycott of the college supervision system in Michaelmas 2023

Yesterday (13/07) UCU Cambridge announced an escalation of their #Justice4CollegeSupervisors campaign. The course of action, which the institution has been organising for five years, asks for a boycott of the college supervision system in Michaelmas 2023.

The campaign demands two things: fair pay and a contract, which the UCU believes every teacher of the university to be deserving of and, that through collective and continuative action, is optimistic that the demands will be met.

The movement has already seen hundreds of supervisors signing up to participate in the boycott next academic term.

Cambridge UCU and Cambridge Student Union officially launched the joint J4CS campaign in 2021, with the hope of “fair pay, paid training, and secure contracts” for supervisors.

The campaign has previously drawn support from national figures such as Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU, and Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge’s MP.

This update has been publicised amidst the UCU marking boycott introduced from Thursday 20th April, currently affecting 145 UK universities and which sees Cambridge students face delays in graduating.

The announcement comes after the campaign and management have had various meetings in an attempt to reform supervisor’s working conditions. Nonetheless, UCU has affirmed that it is clear that there is simply “no intention” for the conditions to be improved.

“The supervision system is broken” states UCU because it is founded on the concept of “precarious workers” who are “criminally underpaid” for their work. Organisers consequently hope that the “boycott will prove how fragile the supervision system is.”

UCU appreciates the disruption it will cause, yet they believe it to be “wholly avoidable” given that Cambridge colleges take the working conditions of supervisors “seriously.”

The organisation affirms that the boycott will be called off if the Colleges provide a “credible offer”, although they are more than prepared to pursue the campaign if the establishments do not come to an agreement.

“None of us wanted to be in this situation”, UCU tweeted but they feel they are left “with no other choice” after a five-year-long demand for the “bare minimum.”

Picketers at a UCU strike in Michaelmas 2022 (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

A Research Fellow at Jesus College stated on Twitter that supervisors are “barely paid minimum wage once preparation time is accounted for.

“It’s time for the University and Colleges to get serious about reforming the system.”

The solidarity of the campaign has already led to one successful fulfilment of the three demands, that is that supervisors are now paid when attending compulsory training.

The University and College Union branch has also set up a hardship fund which will support supervisors and freelancers who find themselves in financial hardship due to the boycott and allow them to claim compensation.

When contacted for comment, a University spokesperson said, “The University is aware of, and is directly supporting, constructive dialogue between representatives for the Colleges and representatives from the campaign for College supervisors.

“Progress has been made on a number of areas and the negotiations are ongoing, which we continue to support.”