One of the responses of UK universities to the economic uncertainties induced by Covid-19 was to remove its most precarious staff – those with casual, temporary and fixed-term academic and professional services contracts. While casualisation and its perils have been on the agenda of higher education-based movements for a long time, this new development led to a revitalization of casualised staff activism across UK universities. Casualised staff have always been bitter regarding their working conditions, but this bitterness has now lent itself to rebellion, with the imminent danger of losing already precarious livelihoods. As many UK universities announced plans to terminate or not renew the contracts of their casualised staff from March 2020 onwards, numerous grassroots campaigns to demand reversal of these plans have been swiftly organized by casualised university staff.
Ayse Sargin is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) at the University of Essex. Sargin’s research focuses on narratives and ideologies in collective action and social movements. Sargin is the Anti-Casualisation Officer and GTA Rep in Essex UCU (University and College Union). Sargin is one of the many initiators of the campaigns to prevent cuts to jobs of casualised academic and professional services staff, including GTA jobs at the University of Essex.