MORE than 1,300 people have signed a petition calling for Essex University bosses to halt any job losses for staff on insecure and temporary contracts.

Contracts of staff on casual contracts, including academic teaching staff on fixed term contracts, graduate students who teach alongside their studies and administrative support staff are not set to be renewed at the current time.

Roles affected include Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and Graduate Lab Assistant (GLA) jobs, of which there are thought to be more than 500.

One academic on a fixed term contract, who has taught at Essex University for nine years, said: "For staff like me on fixed term contracts there’s an expectation contracts will be renewed from year to year, both for the person on the contract and the department who expect you to come back and teach again next year.

"In practice, we are a permanent and essential part of the teaching staff every year, but we don’t get the security of having a proper permanent contract.

"With the current situation that’s a big problem for people in our position because as we can see we are easy to get rid of.”

So far, a total of 1,357 people have signed the petition, which calls for the university to redraft its emergency budget.

The academic added: "The support for the petition has been really encouraging. It shows that the management needs to rethink its approach, consult properly with staff, and come up with creative solutions to safeguard jobs.”

Professor Sanja Bahun, the university's Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education, said: “We have not taken a decision that there will be no work for GTAs or GLAs next year – only right now we cannot make any promises about teaching opportunities for the academic year 2020/21.

"We will make a decision once we have finalised our academic programme for next year, which we are developing right now, and the number and type of opportunities for GTAs and GLAs are clearer. As is the case every year, we would expect to be finalising our plans in August.

"We appreciate how important paid work is to all our students. This is why, when the pandemic introduced such uncertainty into our financial planning, we made our GTAs and GLAs aware at the earliest opportunity that we would not yet be able to confirm any work requirements for next academic year."

GTAs and GLAs will be paid for all work commitments for the remainder of the academic year.

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