People & Planet will assess the commitment and action a university makes with regards to the workers’ rights of:
Farmers and producers of crops in university global supply chains.
Workers involved in the manufacturing of goods for universities.
‘...High levels of casualisation as the norm have caused untold harm in the sector – in terms of the impact on casualised contract staff themselves, the impact on students and the impact on the workplace environment more generally.’
The last 12 years have seen increased casualisation of the higher education sector through the use of fixed-term, zero hours and hourly paid contracts. Academic and academic support staff who are on these contracts are more likely to be female or from non-white ethnic backgrounds, and report issues with their mental health and making ends meet. Casualised staff also report increasing workloads and inadequate paid-time to complete the necessary academic duties, which are likely to affect the quality of academic provision despite the best (unpaid) efforts of the staff on casualised contracts. People & Planet joins the University and Colleges Union in calling for universities to invest in the decasualisation of its workforce and engage with UCU locally to negotiate the transition of precariously employed staff onto more secure contracts.
Universities are accountable for their human rights impacts throughout their supply chains. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights are unequivocal that the responsibility to respect human rights is not limited to in-house staff. They require organisations to: “Seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships”.
University staff that are outsourced or employed through a university procured contract are often unable to negotiate directly with the university and therefore to negotiate over their pay terms and conditions, especially when the company that employs them does not recognise a trade union. University workforce can experience a lack of parity between the staff the university directly employs and those staff that work alongside them everyday but who are employed through an outsourced contract
Universities should ensure that outsourced contracts are based on provision of decent pay, conditions and pensions, which are regularly monitored and see union recognition by contractors as crucial to good workforce relations and equality for workers rights for those working at the university and within the university estate.
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.
The Fairtrade University and College Award gives recognition to institutions that have embedded ethical and sustainable practices through their curriculum, procurement, research and campaigns. The award is jointly delivered by the Fairtrade Foundation and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK).
We believe that workers’ rights are a core issue in ethical procurement and we have set out to reward best practice across a range of approaches.
Across the global south workers are collectively struggling for better conditions and pay. Frequently these workers face violations of their human rights. While universities procure garments one of universities biggest areas of spend is ITC. The electronics industry is increasing outsourcing it’s production to low-wage countries, unions and NGOs have been monitoring the human and labour rights situation in the sector. Over the last few years, numerous research reports coming from these networks, as well as the bout of suicides and suicide attempts at electronics factories in China, have drawn the world’s attention to gross labour violations, including: health and safety problems, no living wage, forced overtime, abuse of vulnerable worker groups, etc. For these reasons People & Planet has prioritised work being done by universities to reform this area of their supply chains.
In order to reform their supply chains universities need to make sure workers’ rights are embedded into contracts, appropriate monitoring in partnership with civil society groups on the ground is resourced and institutions are able to combine their leverage to negotiate improved conditions with ITC brands.
Non-Disclosure agreements (NDA), sometimes called ‘gagging orders’ are contractual agreements between staff and employers (or between the university and students), that typically prevent students, staff or ex-staff making information public. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2019, £87million was spent by universities on NDAs in order to hide cases of discrimination, bullying and sexual misconduct. People & Planet joins Can’t Buy My Silence and the 1752 group in calling on universities to end the use of NDAs for complaints about sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct involving students and staff members