Union campaign achieves almost instant success

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University College London has taken down an advert for an unpaid research assistant after a campaign by the UCU.

The Anna Freud Centre (AFC) and the University College London (UCL) came under fire after the advertisement in UCL’s Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology.

But following an outcry led by UCU, the advertisement disappeared.

A UCU spokesperson said: ‘This latest advert, and its swift disappearence highlight, just how outrageous the proposal not to pay people really is. The AFC’s attempts to defend its actions have done little to improve its tarnished reputation. Universities need to learn, as Birmingham quickly did last month, that the academy will not stand for it and they’re on the fast track to a PR disaster.’

The controversy comes just a month after the University of Birmingham was forced to withdraw an advertisement for an unpaid ‘honorary research assistant’ following a storm of criticism. You can see the UnionNews reportWanted: researcher wanted to work for free. Must have own car – here.

The AFC advert clearly stated the six month post would be unpaid. The minimum pay for a research assistant post at UCL is £25,251 plus around another £2,500 in London weighting. Therefore anyone taking on the post would sacrifice at least £14,000 in pay.

The UCU said unpaid posts undermined the principles of equal pay, exploited people able to work for free and discriminated against those who simply cannot afford to.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Failing to pay researchers undermines the principles of equal pay and is discriminatory and exploitative. The higher education sector already suffers from huge levels of casualisation, but attempting to get researchers to work for free represents a new low.

“We have seen the damage unpaid posts, sold as an opportunity for people to get ahead, have done in other sectors. Universities should be striving for excellence, not seeking to exploit those who can afford to work for nothing as free labour.”


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