The challenge can be found here: uobunison.org.uk/challenge
Liam Byrme, MP for Hodge Hill: I’m proud to support Birmingham University Unison in their fight for a Real Living Wage. This is a simple question of justice. We can’t build a moral economy without decent pay.
Preet Gill, MP for Edgbaston
Cllr Alex Aitken, Birmingham City Council, University Alumni
Cllr Oliver Armstrong, Northfield Cllr: It should be obvious that we must pay people well enough to eat, heat, house themselves and their families, to pay them to live not just to barely survive. It’s time we cared truly for the well-being of people and paid them with this in mind.
Cllr Nicky Brennan: I know exactly what it’s like to struggle as a single parent. Back you 100 per cent on this! Solidarity, always x
Cllr Liz Clements, Unison member, Labour councillor in Birmingham: Solidarity with the Unison members at University Of Birmingham, it’s time for our great civic university to become a Real Living Wage employer.
Cllr Pete Lowe, Dudley
Cllr Harrison Rone-Clarke
Cllr Samantha Charles, West Worcestershire Constituency Labour Party: It’s appalling that senior staff are awarded huge salaries and bonuses while other staff struggle to live on poverty wages. Every employee matters.
II. University of Birmingham staff and students:
Josh Allen, School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham: Always think when you go to get a coffee, lunch, after work beer etc. what the life of the person serving you is like.
Rebecca Andrews, University of Birmingham student
Grace Ashworth, University of Birmingham political science student and outgoing chair of Birmingham University Labour Students: This letter is written with such passion but also in a way that it speaks to many normal people living what should be a normal life but are restricted by their financial situation. Calling upon senior figures on six-figure salaries to walk in the shoes of someone who does a vital job to keep the university running and to keep their family supported, would not only be a reality shock for those like the vice-chancellor but would show solidarity and understanding with those who are merely fighting for better working pay and conditions. This letter is a stark reminder for everyone of what the average worker faces in today’s economic climate when they are just trying to support and feed their families. And it should serve as a reminder to those at the top of this university of what working people face and that they will not stop fighting in the face of such utter inequality in pay. Solidarity with all support staff at the University of Birmingham and with those going on strike.
Michela Baldo, former University of Birmingham employee: I worked as a teaching fellow in Translation Studies in Birmingham in 2010-2011 and i was on a part-time salary,. 50% the first year and. 60% the second. I was earning initially around 900£ and could not afford living on my salary (I rented a room on my own) and had to draw on savings from my previous job. Plus i was working all the time so could not look for another job. I fully embrace this request and all my solidarity to you!
David Bailey, University of Birmingham
Lucy Barker: As an alumnus I am extremely shocked by the pitiful amount the university pays its support staff, without which the university would not function. Please pay our staff the right amount. I hope you realise their worth, and that perhaps you do not require (because who on earth does) an £80,000 bonus. Put yourself in the shoes of these critical members of staff and live in the real, difficult world at lease for a month.
Richard Bell, Business School, University of Birmingham: This is a brilliant letter which should never have to be written both in this day and age and because of the pay policies of a respected University. You speak for so many when you outline your struggles and I loved the challenge at the end !!; will anybody take you up that challenge I wonder ?? Hopefully we will succeed and you can have the life you and your family deserve
Naomi Bennett, University of Birmingham
Danny Benson, Cleaning Services, University of Birmingham
F. Berry, University of Birmingham
Lisa Bird, University of Birmingham: I understand that universities are now in uncertain financial times, and considering this I find it difficult to understand why the University is giving an £80,000 incentive bonus. In my 17 years at UoB, I’ve never heard of another member of staff being offered an incentive bonus, I have been lucky enough to have received small one-off payments of around £500 when I have excelled at my job. So I have to query why does another member of UoB staff receive such large incentive bonuses that are not available to the rest of the hard working staff? It is this inequality that rankles with many UoB staff, bonuses and pay rises should be equal across the board. If this is done as a % of earning then the highest earners will still do better from it. I’m also very concerned that this letter seems to imply that a member of staff on the lower end of the pay scale seems to have to spend their own money on what is effectively a work uniform (catering shoes). If the expense of the VCs chauffeur driven car is justified on the basis that he requires this for his job, then surely the University should also ensure that they pay for the tools and uniforms that other members of staff require to complete their jobs.
Dr. Susan Blackwell, Ph.D. graduate and former member of academic staff at UoB: It is a disgrace that David Eastwood, who is currently joining the employers’ campaign to wreck the USS pension scheme, is receiving mouth-watering bonuses while support staff at the Uni are having to take second jobs and visit food banks just to make ends meet.
Isaac Boothman, UoB Student, Music
Nia Brace, University of Birmingham
James Brackley, University of Birmingham / Accounting / UCU: Thank you for writing and sharing this letter. I hope that senior management take you up on this challenge and that academic staff consider contributing to the hardship fund. Solidarity!
Dr Richard O’Brien, University of Birmingham, The Shakespeare Institute
Josie Byrne, Student, UoB
Amy Burge, University of Birmingham / UCU
Meghan Campbell, University of Birmingham.
Carol, University of Birmingham: In support of paying key workers what they deserve at the University of Birmingham
Charlotte, University: The difference in pay is truly horrendous. Cruel, selfish senior staff who only seem to care about whether they’re going to get an £80,000 bonus. Not whether the rest of their cohort are even able to provide food for their own children or even any mental welfare or environmental issues.
Ioana Cerasella Chis, University of Birmingham UNISON & UCU: There is nothing more embarrassing for senior managers than when they are confronted with the reality of our struggles, and when their ignorance is exposed by those who have to deal with the repercussions of their flippant decisions. You are being addressed directly – you have to respond back.
Phil Child, University of Birmingham
Chloë, University of Birmingham Medical Student: David Eastwood and anyone else earning that sort of money doesn’t need it. Support your staff better and make an effort with your students.
Helen Clayton, University of Birmingham
Nicoleta Condruz, University of Birmingham
Rona Cran, University of Birmingham
Cris, Student at UOB: This letter clearly sets out the human experience behind every wage slip and politely, but powerfully puts forward the challenge – practical empathy. Those making the important decisions would be hard pushed to justify inaction, even if they only took up this challenge as a thought experiment, not living the lives of those affected.
Diletta De Cristofaro, EDACS (University of Birmingham)
Lee Crutchley, Modern Languages, University of Birmingham: I just want to thank this lady for being so brave. Her story has to make people sit up and take notice surely?
Melany Cruz, University of Birmingham/POLSIS/PhD student.
Amber Culley, Guild LGBTQ Officer
Caroline Curtis, UoB Doctoral Student, UNISON member
Maya Davey, UoB student
Thomas Davies, UoB student
Debs, In support of a work colleague.
PJD, University of Birmingham: We cannot stop bad things happening to staff but we can make a difference in terms of support available with a wage that will allow them to live, eat and sleep.
Simon Dixon, GEES, University of Birmingham: The refusal of management to pay support staff a wage they can live on is a source of shame to the university. This taints everything we achieve as an institution when it is built on the backs of people forced into destitution.
Daniel Drage, University of Birmingham: Everyone deserves to earn the basic standard of living. I know I couldn’t provide for my child on this, and nobody else should have to either.
Susan Duffy, former University of Birmingham employee: I no longer work at the uni but understand whats going on , the rich get richer while the real workers get stamped on. If it wasn’t for all support staff the uni couldn’t work and wouldn’t work. You big wigs are selfish and greedy uncaring people. There was never any money to spare for a decent pay rise for lower earners. So where does the cash appear from to fill your pockets
Dylan Dunnett, University of Birmingham, LCAHM, Unison member (central branch): I have studied at UoB for both my undergrad and now my part time masters and the entire time I have seen the staff there treated like dirt on the bottom of a shoe, living in poverty wages whilst the senior management boost about their inclusivity. This is nothing less than an attack on the working class and it has to end.
Emily, UoB student and part time cleaner at uob: the most hard working people i have ever met in my life have been the cleaning staff at uob. treat your workers with respect. the pay gap between you and others who keep this university running is a joke. they deserve a pay raise, and to be treated with respect, because the staff who work as cleaners, in the cafes and receptions all keep this uni running just like you do.
Mairead Enright, University of Birmingham Law
Ruth Evans, Unison
Dr Samantha Fairclough, University of Birmingham, UCU
Joe Finn, University of Birmingham, Careers Network
Isobel Ford, University of Birmingham
Isabel Galleymore, Department of Film and Creative Writing, University of Birmingham
Paula Anne Goodall, University of Birmingham
Emma Green, University of Birmingham: I think the letter speaks for itself and can only commend the letter writer for having the courage to write it. I suspect that there are *many* similar stories around campus. I would appeal to the University’s sense of decency and civic duty and commit to meeting the Union to listen to and act upon their demands.
Charlotte Griffin, UoB student: Shocking that David Eastwood continues to turn a blind eye to this modern day poverty.
Marco Guglielmo, University of Birmingham
Nick Hardy, University of Birmingham UCU: I cannot understand how anyone could read this letter and not support UoB UNISON’s strike action for higher pay. The University’s managers can afford to end the in-work poverty experienced by its staff, but they are choosing not to. I have donated to the strike fund and hope everyone reading this letter does the same.
Joshua Harris, Student (Secretary Birmingham University Labour Students)
Stella Hart, UoB, Unison
Stephen Haynes, UNISON University of Birmingham: Behind this campaign 100%
Chezs Hemmings, Infusion: I work for the university for 20 years, give my all to the job, but finding you are not been appreciative for all your work. even we are low earners we still have to paid parking fee.we give our all to have to still paid for the privilege to work and not getting the pay rise we deserved.
Gary Hilton, External Relations, University of Birmingham Poverty wages in one of the richest countries richest university is shameful scandal.
Sharmila Howard, Cleaning Services, University of Birmingham: I totally agree with the above letter as I too have had to take on extra jobs. I work 15 hrs a week @UoB starting @6am. I leave @9am
to rush 2 my other jobs & usually get home about 4pm. Although I haven’t had the same struggles as the lady above I’ve still struggled. My son got mixed up with the wrong people ended up gambling & ran up nearly £20.000 on my husbands and my credit cards he was also taking heroin which he couldn’t afford so we had people knocking at our door so we paid them off too. Our lives didn’t start off this way and we certainly didn’t in a million years think we’d b where we are now – struggling from 1 week 2 the next but we do it because we live our son and didn’t want him to go to prison or end up dead. So yes PLEASE senior management live for a month how most of us live.
Matt Houlbrook, Department of History, University of Birmingham
Finn Humphris, Trans students’ Officer, guild of students (18/19): Those from the most oppressed and disadvantaged backgrounds are so frequently kept in the cycle of economic struggles and poverty by exploitative work practices, created by an elite with no conception of what life is like for the people they underpay. Senior staff fail daily at basic empathy and humanity and the diligent staff you keep the university running deserve better.
Jo, University of Birmingham: I would like to start by saying huge congratulations to the member of staff who has written this heartbreaking and eye opening letter. I would also like to say that I am so so sorry that you are facing these struggles on a regular basis and I really believe that no member of staff working at one of the most richest University’s in the UK should be made to feel like this.
I am sure that your words will touch a lot of support staff around this University who are struggling to make it to the next pay day, who are struggling to send their children to a decent school, who are struggling to care for their old and sick parents, who are struggling to work 3 jobs with little to no sleep just to keep up with their monthly outgoings and who are struggling to feel like they are actually living a life. Please do not give up, please wake up and tackle on another day with a smile on your face. I support your challenge 100% !!
Thomas Jordan, BA History, University of Birmingham: The discrepancy between executive pay and the pay of many university staff is disgusting and shameful. This university’s management disgraces the reputation of our institution and they should hang their heads in shame over their consistent hypocrisy and failure.
Charlotte K, University: Consider those who may appear to be below you. The university cannot stand by these pay decisions.
Katie, University of Birmingham: Yes I think they should see what we have to live and budget on
Finola Kerrigan, University of Birmingham: I want to work at a university where the value of all colleagues is appreciated. In line with the civic origins of the university, all our colleagues should have dignity in their work and be able to afford the basics of life. Without the colleagues in support roles, we have no university
Abdirisaq Jama, Cleaning Services, Medical School, University of Birmingham
Jodie, UoB Employee – UNISON Member: A very real and truly heart-breaking account of the realities of surviving on a low income. The fact that you can be employed on a Band 200, 300 or 400 contract at the University of Birmingham & still struggle to pay your bills is something that would come as a shock to people outside of the university. The University of Birmingham dines out on its reputation whist support staff go without & rely on food banks to feed their families. Senior Managers refusing to discuss Real Living Wage Accreditation should be ashamed of themselves.
Andy Jolly, University of Birmingham/ University of Wolverhampton
Ian Killeen, University support staff: I fully support this letter. The University needs to look after its staff, a happy work force provides excellent customer service. The University needs to provide for its working families.
Atina Krajewska, University of Birmingham: The contribution of support staff at the UoB is invaluable in our every day academic life. They should be treated with respect.
Dr Catherine Lester, Film and Creative Writing, University of Birmingham
Karen Lodge, University of Birmingham, Library Services
Lorna, Recent Graduate of University: I stand in solidarity with this woman of incredible strength, who has written so powerfully of the battles she faces in day-to-day life. Clearly, the University of Birmingham is in no small part to blame for those battles. The University’s executive wages are obscene in comparison to the exploitative salaries afforded to support staff. (Teaching staff are not paid adequately either, as they have fought to make known). It is unfortunate that the Vice Chancellor is likely only to act in response to the threat revelations such as this letter bring upon his reputation and career. Regardless of the motivation, I hope he does now finally act.
Kate Lowther, Alumni: Shocking that the vice chancellor is paid so highly while the valuable support staff at the university can’t afford basic necessities. It makes me ashamed of the University of Birmingham.
E. Lyon, University graduate
El Ma, University of Birmingham, UCU
Michael Macgregor-Fairlie, University of Birmingham, Chem Eng, UCU
Triin Major, University of Birmingham
Taymar Pearce-Mason, University of Birmingham Student: Paying £9,250 per year in study at the university I expect that all staff should be able to sustain a minimum of a basic lifestyle through their full time employment at the university. The fact that the Vice Chancellor seems to be paid an astronomical amount for work we never see and it is the people on the front line, the really service we need and use that are getting scraps for the amazing work they do. As a student of the university I would rather the money we pay in tuition was put towards ensuring these basic rights of the workers are meet rather than spending millions of pounds on green spaces.
Mike Moore, University of Birmingham UNISON: This is the real impact of the University’s failure to maintain pay in the face of inflation. So many staff believe in the University and work hard to make it a fantastic place to study – it should be paying them enough and should stop cutting back on the small perks and benefits that mean so much to people on low incomes.
Elio Di Muccio, Branch Secretary, University and College Union, University of Birmingham branch
Rachel O’Brien, University of Birmingham Alumni
Emma Oakley, University of Birmingham
Martha Ohr, PPE Student, University of Birmingham: Hearing this story is heartbreaking, especially when I know my fees aren’t being spent adequately supporting the staff that make the University work on a day to day basis! Subsistence wages and living in poverty is no way to treat our staff, especially when the highest managers and VC enjoy such comfortable lives. I fully support the sentiment of the letter and urge the managerial staff to try and live like this for a month! Solidarity x
Member of staff at UoB: Such a well written letter in such circumstances should be considered and acknowledged.
John Overthrow, University of Birmingham: Fully support this.
Silvia Panetti, University of Birmingham, PhD student, Cancer Sciences: We should all try and put ourselves in some less lucky people’s shoes. It could as easily be us (or someone we love) one day and we should never forget it.
Josh Parker, alumnus
Stephen Pattison, University of Birmingham
Henry Price, University of Birmingham: Reading the letter above underlines the human cost of gross inequality in our workforce. This cannot continue unopposed, and I offer my full support to this campaign.
Muireann Quigley, University of Birmingham
Chelsea Reynolds, Student, University of Birmingham: As students we recognise the hard work that support staff put in that allows us to have the experience that we do at university. These workers should be able to afford not just to live, but to thrive. The fact that workers at the University are forced into foodbanks with their children whilst the Vice Chancellor has a chauffeur driven car is a disgrace. Put it right!
Maren Rohe, University of Birmingham
Pia Rotshtein, University of Birmingham: Extreme inequalities is not just immoral, it is also counter productive within an organisation and society in general.
Julie Rudd, University of Birmingham, Library Services: And you’ll still have the advantage of having a full wardrobe, full fridge/freezer, full petrol tank even if you do!
Charlotte Ryan, University of Birmingham
Sarina, University of Birmingham Childcare Services
Catherine Taylor, Library Services, University of Birmingham: A very interesting proposition
Alif Trevathan, University student
Jane Trobridge, Library Services, University of Birmingham: Our University should be a world leader in valuing its staff as well as research. We can be better than this. Support staff are the glue that holds our learning establishment together
Gemma Unwin, UoB
Joseph Ward, UoB Education & Unison
Freya Watkins, University of Birmingham
Leanne Watson, UOB HAS STUDENT ACCOMMODATION: Very similar to my situation. We’re currently fighting to be awarded the correct night shift allowance of 18% a 2%increase of current allowance. Faced with a brick wall or resistance!
Marcie Winstanley, University of Birmingham student, CAHA: It is so important that the lowest paid workers of any institution are given a fair wage for the work they do. The University of Birmingham must turn its focus away from marketisation and casualisation and towards ending pay inequality.
Maria Witek, University of Birmingham
Liz Wyman, Alumni
George Y., University of Birmingham student
Alex Yates, University of Birmingham student
III. Other supporters:
Olly Alcock: Supporter of low paid workers
Nadya Ali, Sussex University, International Relations
Ian Allinson, MA student, Keele University
Julie Alonzo, UNISON: I fully support this challenge. The struggle to provide for your family is really hard. No one should have to resort to working all the hours in more than one job and still be out of pocket on payday. This is not even existing and my heart goes out to her and those for whom this is their life day in, day out.
Amaha, Cardiff University
Dawn Amesbury, UNISON University of Leeds: If this letter doesn’t move you to reconsider your pay scales and ensure that all of your staff are on a Real Living Wage then I don’t know what will.
Sheryl Amesbury, Unison member: A Birmingham graduate and former employee I left for another university. One that pays more and has a higher regard for it’s professional support staff. Mine is a fairly common story. Good luck with your campaign.
Andrew, UCU: Salaries of the senior managers in the majority of industries are now ridiculous. Bonuses too. Boris will give even more with his tax changes for top earners.
Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Princeton University: I stand in solidarity with my colleagues whose work should be valued and who should receive a wage that allows them to thrive. No one should need to have a second wage in order to survive financially. Please address these concerns, make changes that show us that the senior administration cares for the well-being of their colleagues, and does not view them solely through the lens of productivity and profit.
Cate Archer: It amazes me such a bonus can be awarded when people who are fundamental in making UOB what it is. You can tell a person’s priorities and character by looking at how they treat and value those who shoulders they stand on.
Peter Armstrong, University of Leicester: Failure to bring services in house & pay living wage is bringing University of Birmingham into disrepute. You need to recognise this & put it right.
Sabina Avdagic, University of Sussex/Politics
Dave Auger, Deputy branch sec city of Wolverhampton UNISON
Aswin Babu, Hospital Staff
Dr. Bruce E. Baker, UCU National Executive Committee: A university should be a community of learning and research, and everyone who works there supporting that enterprise needs to be treated decently and respectfully, and that includes pay. If the only way you can understand to run a university is as some half-baked model of what you think a business is, with hierarchies and deference enforced by mistreatment of staff and demonstrated publicly through obscene rates of pay for “managers”, then you should leave the university and try your hand in what you often tell the rest of us is “the real world” and see how well you get on.
Joel Baker, University of Sheffield
Najmussahar Bangash, Unison member
Lee Barron, TUC Regional Secretary: TUC stands shoulder to shoulder with you
Alan Beard, Retired
Becky, trade union: As a fellow single parent, I can completely relate to the pressure of managing a household income and family committments whilst on a low income…I hope management rise to the challenge and get a snap shot of what their dedicated staff experience on a daily basis! Good luck x
Chiara Benassi, King’s College London
Stuart Betteridge, Well done everyone – together is stronger! I take my hat off to you all.
Dominic Beynon-Gray, University student
Kalindi Black, Student, UWTSD
Vicky Blake, UCU Vice President: Full support and solidarity to all at Uni of Birmingham Unison in the fight for decent pay and conditions. I hope the VC actually reads, and managed to absorb this letter. Like the author of this letter, I don’t understand is how anyone can justify taking hefty bonuses whilst other staff members can’t afford the basic necessities. What a disgrace.
Cecily Blyther, UCU NEC rep for Casualised Members in FE: As a casualised member of staff, teaching in FE, I too would like more senior managers to think about the conditions of employment their staff are expected to live with.
Hannah Boast, Teaching Fellow, Department of English: None of us in the university could do our jobs without support staff. We can’t allow our colleagues to live like this.
Prof Lynda Boothroyd, Durham University
Michael Bramley: Only fair.
Paul Brennan, UCU: The HE sector needs to act proactively to reduce the inequality present across the sector. University of Sussex: I am a PhD researcher. I 100% support you and hope that something will be done about these low wages and unacceptable living conditions. Best of luck.
George Briley, Goldsmiths, University of London, IWGB: Pay inequality, outsourcing and creeping precarity are some of the most important front line battles in higher education. It is heartening to see this union branch directly confronting these issues and taking the fight to management with this challenge. Your struggle is inspirational, and the challenge reveals how abstracted management in higher education has become from everyday workers that keep our institutions running. This challenge centers the low-income staff so often marginalised in the university, it should be put to all senior management teams across the higher education sector. Solidarity and all power to you!
Barbara Burke, Unison Member
Helena Burke, ASCL
Mark Carrigan, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Dr Alison Cameron, Bangor University
Rowan Campbell, Cardiff University/Cardiff UCU
Simon Cardy, Social Work Action Network
Michael Carley, UCU
Calum Carson, University of Leeds
Jack Chamberlain, Supporter
Marco Checchi, DMU UCU
Song-Chuan Chen, Warwick University, History Department: I feel angry that the high administrators earn money far far far too much than they need, while in the ‘same office’ there are people who cannot make ends meet. We need to change this system that is by the elite and for the elite to a political economic system that is by everyone and for everyone.
Prof Beverley Clack, Oxford Brookes University and Unison: The unfair disparity in pay and bonuses is another sign that we need to address the scourge of both low and excessively high pay. We need universities where the work of all is valued because we are all part of one community. The Unison challenge should be taken up by all senior staff in all universities, and then, perhaps, we would start to see real change in the treatment of staff in the sector.
Stephen Clayton, UCU/Edge Hill University: Low paid, insecure employment is a social blight and universities should be leading the efforts to restructure pay to remove this blight.
Neil Cocks, University of Reading: Please listen to these messages. They speak to the reality of working in HE for so many people. University life should be better than this. It should be the best.
Sarah Cotterill, former staff member at UoB/
Billy Cowan, Edge Hill University: The inequitable differences in wages between senior management and other university staff needs to be challenged to give everyone a fair and livable wage.
Mary Cutler, Writers Guild of Great Britain: I was passing going to the University station on the day of the rally and heard some of these stories. I was moved, shocked and angry. A university should surely be a place that offers equality of opportunity to all, somewhere that offers a wider, richer life to all. It pains me, as a Brummie, to discover that our university, which was founded on these principles, should have sunk so far beneath them. This is a a fight that cannot be lost,and not just for the sake of the support workers . Because if it is lost, what is the University of Birmingham for?
Dan, Family member of a member of staff: Whilst I appreciate senior staff should be paid more in no way should your support staff suffer due to this. Just remember without them non of your stores could open thus causing a negative impact on the uni and it’s reputation. A fair bonus and pay scheme is all that is required
Dave C., Newcastle University
Phillip Davis, UNISON: Love to see you do it.
Evelyn Dodds, University of Sussex
Bernadette Driscoll, UCU (CNWL FE sector)
Deepa Govindarajan Driver, NEC UCU: As a mother of two young children, reading this letter had me in tears. My heart goes out to the parent who had to explain this to a fat cat. This reminder has reaffirmed my resolve that we cannot be complicit in the mistreatment of our low-paid and precarious comrades. I will do my utmost during my term on NEC to support the alleviation of the hardship our precarious and low paid colleagues face.
Synne Dyvik, University of Sussex
Anna Duncan, University of Oxford
Moira Dustin, School of Law, University of Sussex
June Edmunds, LPS, University of Sussex
Rachel Emmett, NEU member
Dr Adam Errington, Cardiff University: I fully support this letter. At a time when Universities face serious challenges it is shocking to see the salaries and bonuses of Senior Management continually increasing as ordinary members of staff have faced ever growing workloads, rising stress levels and real terms decreases in their pay over the last decade. As their remuneration has grown dramatically with the marketisation of universities Senior Management have become disconnected from the experiences described in this letter and too often do not understand the sacrifices many of their staff have to make to live. Although taking part in this challenge could never truly allow highly paid management to understand the challenges faced by many of their lower paid staff it may cause them to pause for thought when advocating squeezes on the wages of those at the bottom of the pay scale as they continue to award themselves large bonuses and pay increase.
M. H., Evans, University of Sussex
Chris Eves, Department for International Relations
Nuno Ferreira, University of Sussex: Fairer salaries are essential for a socially just society – universities should set the example.
I E Garrido Fernandez
Argyro Filippaki, JHU
Kirsten Forkert, School of Media, Birmingham City University & UCU branch chair (personal capacity): This is a very powerful and moving testimony of the realities of life on low pay. I worked on low-paid, precarious contracts before my current job and while what I experienced is nowhere near what this person has had to deal with, I empathise with the struggle to make ends meet and the continual stress about paying the bills. It’s important that senior management understand what their lowest paid staff are experiencing and so I encourage the members of the senior management team to take up the challenge.
Eva Fringi, University of Kent
Lesley Gabriel, Unison
Sol Gamsu, Durham University, Dept of Sociology: Low and precarious pay has no place in higher education. The real human cost of these employment practices and conditions is laid bare here and it is shameful. I know from having worked and studied in universities across England that these experiences are not unique. Whether it is outsourced cleaners in London or zero hours security guards working at universities in the North-East, the decision of senior management to employ staff on this rates and with these terms is causing disgusting poverty.
Garrie, Unison member: How can anyone in good conscience support such low pay for staff? When compared with the obscene amounts that University’s senior leaders are paid this really is outrageous. These workers have the right to decent pay – cough up.
Andy Gee, University
George: I was moved by the letter and wish to support those in need.
Dion Georgiou, History and Politics, University of Chichester
Dr William Ghosh, University of Oxford: The salaries you award yourselves, and those you award your lowest paid staff, do not go unnoticed by the wider academic community. This is not only a problem at Birmingham, but it clearly is a problem at Birmingham, and you have it in your power to make the situation more equitable.
Dr Susy Giullari, Family Action London: The extreme inequality we are seeing in this letter mirrors the rest of society and sectors. It has never been seen before, not even during the workhouse period. It is totally immoral, unfair and absolutely unnecessary. I am not sure what people do with an extra £80,000 bonus, but all l can say they certainly do not need it more than the hungry children l see in my job every day.
Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge: End the scandal of low pay
Carol Gordon, Newcastle University: In support of all low paid staff, a commitment to pay the Real Living Wage is required.
Dr Jo Grady, UCU: Everyone deserves dignity. Everyone deserves a living wage. Thank you for having the bravery to share your story. Love and solidarity, Jo.
Chris Green, Labour Party member: This is a very moving letter and paints a powerful picture of one woman’s daily struggle just to survive and make ends meet. I hope that the campaign will secure a living wage for her and her colleagues. It would also be good if some of the Senior Managers were to take up the challenge!
Helen Griffiths, No one should have to go without sleep for 65 hours to make ends meet. If the police kept you awake for that long when questioning you, it would be deemed “cruel and unusual treatment”, with good reason. It’s not safe nor healthy to be awake for that long.
Dr Chris Grocott, University of Leicester
Richard Hall, De Montfort University
David Harvie, University of Leicester
Kavan Hawker, Birmingham Unite Community
Elane Heffernan, UCU NEC member: The university cannot function without the labour of the cleaners, the caterers, the low paid who do all the unnoticed work every day. And yet, these staff are paid as if worthless, as if they can live on air and live in shoeboxes. I support this call. Pay them a living wage and stop taking from those with the least to pay yourselves at the top.
Kevin Henshaw, UCU: I simply support a fair deal and fair pay for all staff.
Pat Heron, Unison Northern Women’s Network: We stand united with our colleagues at Birmingham University in their battle and thank our fellow Unison sister for courage to share her story and point out the struggle when injustice is in play to you all whatever service we work in, united in solidarity is our strength.
Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow, UCU NEC: We need to eradicate poverty. All university and other workers should earn enough to support themselves and their families and this should include holidays and entertainment, not just the very basics. Universities should also bring staff in house so they can improve their terms and conditions. Trying to live on a poverty wage for a month would give VCs and principals a better understanding of the struggles involved.
Patrick Highton, Unite
Michael Hughes: It is grossly unfair that your support staff are so badly paid, often forcing them to take a second job just to make ends meet. Surely you should value them for the essential jobs that they do. Have you ever even considered for a moment what it is like for someone to have to live on the level of pay they are forced to? Well, you should. A review of your support staff salaries is urgently needed.
Michael Hughes: I am writing, as a concerned member of the public, to raise your awareness of the plight of your support staff at the University. Many of these are forced, through financial problems, to take on second jobs, merely to make ends meet. These problems are a direct result of the appallingly low salary the University pays its support staff. Doing two jobs amounting to 60 hours a week leaves little time for family or any other pleasurable activities. Have you ever considered for one moment what it is like to have to live on this level of income? Perhaps you should. This situation is so unfair when one also takes into account the grossly inflated salaries of the University Management staff. A huge number of the general public consider these salaries are not justified. An urgent review of the salaries of your support staff, taking into account gender inequality, must be carried out. I sincerely hope their continuing strike action and campaign are successful.
Pam Hughes: It seems very clear that there should be an urgent review into support staffs wages, as this is a desparate situation for a person who is just trying to support her family. What is worrying is that this is just one case, one person and one family, there must be more.
Michelle Huws-Thomas, Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University
Tony Ince, Cardiff University
Bob Jeffery, Sheffield Hallam University
Jess, University: You can have all the privileges in the world; and without compassion for your fellow humans you will never be a rounded person. A true leader serves others. Your role at the University of Birmingham is to ensure the business runs well and profits. A good business does not exploit its employees – a good business invests in people, gives them dignity, respect and opportunities to develop and thrive. Making profit without taking care of those who helped the business make the money is vulgar and ultimately unethical. Here is a poem you ought to read and learn from – I hope you have a good look at the man staring back at you:
The Man In The Glass
Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
Rob Joiner, Equity
Dr Lee Jones, QMUL: Pay the living wage!
Ulysses S. Jones, Staffordshire University UNISON, Young Members & LGBT+ Officer: Full solidarity to all workers struggling currently, and taking part in the Strike Action. We are with you and see you.
Sarah Joss, Heriot-Watt University: There is a shocking disparity between the highest and lowest paid in Higher Education. It is time for VCs to justify their ludicrous, undeserved salaries (no one needs or earns that much money) and to explain how they can countenance staff being paid wages that do not cover the cost of living. Try living off the salary of a low paid employee for a month and donate the difference between their salary and yours to a charity that supports the foodbanks or free school breakfasts that support those who should be being paid properly by their employers. As a fellow single parent and DV survivor I wish the letter writer and all the low paid staff in dispute with UoB all the best in their fight for wage justice.
Katie, IWW: Solidarity with all people, especially single parents who are working unpaid to support and care for a household and barely making ends meet. Testimony like this about the struggle just to survive on low pay should be read by anyone who sets pay and manages the working and living conditions of others.
Sharanjit Kaur: For a University that prides itself on innovation, research and education, its current state of affairs demonstrates total neglect and ignorance. How does this establishment expect to educate and lead the next generation of people when its own actions are so corrupt and hypocritical? I take a quote directly from the University of Birmingham website “The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre focussing on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. It promotes a moral concept of character in order to explore the importance of virtue for public and professional life.” Now, would be a great time to lift the concepts of virtue, moral character and humane values off of the volumes of paper and into your actions. Just as the public and professionals have implored you to do so, for so long.
Andy King, University of Southampton
Colin King, University of Sussex
Grace Krause, Anti-Precarity Cymru, Cardiff University: It is unconscionable that some members of a university should struggle to feed their children while others live in luxury. You have the means to pay all your staff fairly. You are choosing not to. Solidarity with all striking Unison members at Birmingham University and many thanks to the brave support staff member who shared their experience with us.
Laurence: Its amazing how the over paid get more while the staff on the bottom end of the ladder who do just as a important job looking after students housing open days well come weeks and are a lot of the time a frist point of contact for students cover different shifts including weekend s..the university as almost made .it impossible to get a pay rise… as the cost of living gets higher and higher dou to the country been run by over paid fools in parliament!!
Mariah J Lelos, Cardiff University
Iain Lindsey, Durham University
Jo Lumley, University of Sheffield
Bharat Malkani, UCU Cardiff University
Ivan Markovic, University of Nottingham
Tessa Marshall, Cardiff University
Luke Martell, University of Sussex
Agnieszka Martynowicz, UCU Branch Sec at Edgbe Hill University: Noone should be forced to use food banks to survive. Universities are rich institutions and they should pay their staff a decent wage! Support workers are VITAL to our institutions – respect them!
Kamran Matin, Sussex University
Claire Marris, City, University of London
Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield: This is a heartbreaking account of how hard it is for some at the University of Birmingham. Senior management should not just try to live off the pay for a month, they should try and live the accompanying life. Shame on all those aiding and abetting the decisions that lead to where we’ve got to.
Rosa Marvell, Department of Education, University of Sussex
Max: This is disgusting! There needs to be a rebalance. Putting yourself in another persons shoes should be the norm when pay decisions are made. Looking at the highest earners and lowest and ensuring that it is more balanced and evenly spread is essential and most of all paying a decent wage, that allows for the essentials to be covered is not rocket science. Society as a whole has become comfortable with the idea of awarding individuals grotesque amounts of money, yet vilifying those on the lower wage scale yet working just as hard. Sad times we live in.
Marian Mayer, Bournemouth University (Co-Chair of Bournemouth Uni UCU and Chair of Southern Region UCU): University leaders must show leadership. This is a step in the right direction. The next step would be to pay all staff decent wages and make their terms and conditions equivalent to those of management.
Paddy McDaid, School of Law, Birkbeck
Jo McNeill, President, University of Liverpool UCU: This heartbreaking, brave letter perfectly illustrates the sheer inequality and abstract working poverty experienced by some staff in our universities. Universities who can pay six figure salaries to countless senior managers, cover the costs of business class flights, chauffeur driven cars and endless expenses yet make catering staff pay for their own shoes. Enough is enough, as well as a pay rise we should be demanding benefits like full childcare and travel costs for staff holding contracts at the lower end of the pay scale. Let’s see this actually happen. Let’s see senior managers live on these wages in these conditions for a month! We need an overhaul, we need to focus on people not profits. Enough really is enough!
Jess Meacham, University of Sheffield
Melissa: Don’t give in
Zoe Miveld, Unison
Linda Moore, Senior Lecturer Criminology Ulster University
Dr Liz Morrish, York St John University: All full-time jobs should pay enough for a worker to be able to afford a decent life. Pay a Living Wage!
Esther Muddiman, Cardiff University
David Muritu, Sandwell College
James Murphy, UWE Bristol
Naomi, Scottish HE: Solidarity to HE professional support. I also challenge senior university management to go back to the shop floor.
Sandy Nicoll, UNISON Branch Secretary, SOAS University of London: No one should have to live in poverty but to work a 36 hour week and to suffer some of the privations faced by many University of Birmingham staff is truly shocking! If management are not ashamed then they should be and just prove they are not fit to run an institution of higher learning. I support the challenge for the Vice Chancellor and other University of Birmingham senior management to try and live on the pittance you pay to many of your staff and to then try and tell us that these staff are valued and respected.
Eugene Nulman, BCU UCU
Jason Obiri-Yeboah, University Student
Ozlem, Working single parent: I support you? there’s no words to describe much more. Salute sister!
Christopher Parkinson, CWU
Stephen Pattison: Fairness and justice is so important in exemplary public institutions in a divided society. Please can UoB become a beacon rather than a basket case?
Rhiannon Pugh, OREBRO UNIVERSITY: The pay inequality in universities is shocking, something has to change.
Tanya Palmer, University of Sussex, Law
Stan Papoulias, King’s College London, UCU member
Alison Phipps, Professor of Gender Studies, University of Sussex: University support staff are the backbone of our institutions – they should be well-rewarded for the work they do, not unable to make ends meet. Full solidarity to this campaign.
Nicky Priaulx, Cardiff University, School of Law and Politics: This is a beautifully written letter. The contents of it reveal a great deal of sadness and disappointment in a higher education leadership that is failing the very people that enable higher education to function. It is a patient and kind letter, designed to help those who appear to find it difficult to understand, the lives of others. Should it be so hard for those who earn big bucks to really understand, and to empathise with the situation of a person who is in quite a different financial position – or to imagine what it is like to live off a shit wage every month – or to know what it is like to have to go without so many things? I don’t know. Nevertheless, this letter makes an important attempt to help others, differently situated, to start to develop some insight. Maybe those at the top, don’t even stop to think about things like this – and perhaps these very populations are just visualised as ‘cost savings’. But this letter compels the University leadership to confront the humans upon which their organisation (and salaries and bonuses) so critically depends. And it is also a powerful reminder to all of us how badly wrong our sector is going – and how disconnected the leadership are from its staff. It should *not* be difficult to imagine or empathise with any staff member – any decent leader of an organisation concerned with the flourishing of an organisation should be involved with workers on the frontline, be able to see what’s going on, and as a result understand why the provision of decent working conditions, a decent salary that enables staff to live, proves to be so crucial to the success of the organisation.
This letter, whilst written by one person, provides a glimpse into the lives of a far larger staff population that are the most financially vulnerable and yet, upon which the Higher Education sector critically depends. Precariousness now strongly defines HE.This letter sets out a challenge akin to “Rich House/Poor House” in the HE sector – while issued to the leadership, many of us in more secure posts, would benefit from taking up this challenge to better empathise with workers placed in this losing situation – of working all hours and juggling a load of responsibilities (and different jobs) – and still not being able to make ends meet. For those with memories of this situation, it is worth taking up that challenge to refresh the memory of what it is like to live a life that consists of juggling jobs, doing without, the anxiety, tiredness and shitty uncertainty that attends life on the poverty line. And now to think, *this is what co-workers of ours are having to endure despite working at one of the most successful universities in the UK*. The salaries, success bonuses and attitudes of those at the top of Universities highlights a serious disconnect between those leading the higher education sector, and the very staff that enables the delivery and functioning of higher education.
Sam Pryke, UCU: We hear you. Will they?
Caroline Rainey, I do not see how the enormous gap in pay between the highest & lowest paid staff members is justified.
Dr Michael Rees, University of Wolverhampton: It is time that senior management recognised that their inflated salaries are unfair and recognise the hard work of those who truly ensure that universities run effectively.
Ashleigh Renelt, University
Abi Rhodes, University of Nottingham
Daisy Richards, De Montfort University
Frankie Roake, University of Sussex: I’ve been struggling to support myself financially as a course coordinator for the past 2 years, slowly working towards my own personal career training goals – the university isn’t able to offer me any financial support, I’ll be earning less money each month as I do my own course, pay off my private loan for the tuition and the travel fees. It’s very difficult to see so many people at the top in such highly paid roles, it’s very difficult to understand the justification for such vast salaries when many of us are struggling just to stay out of the overdraft, and Universities are making big budget cuts, not renewing job contracts, etc.
Helen Roberts, UNISON: I fully support this challenge. The struggle to provide for your family is really hard. No one should have to resort to working all the hours in more than one job and still be out of pocket on payday. This is not even existing and my heart goes out to her and those for whom this is their life day in, day out.
Stephen Rooney, University of Leicester UCU
Anne Routledge, University of York UCU
Amy Ryall, University of Sheffield
Martha Schulman, Precarious@Kent: Stop the pay incentive and raise employee salaries!
Pytrik Schafraad: I cannot believe that this is real in a civilized rich country such as the UK. I know it is. And it smashes you in the face when you read it. Those who are in power to end this horrible situation should not deny this, but act upon it. right. now.!
Tom Scriven, University of Manchester
Lizzie Seal, University of Sussex: I support Unison staff at Birmingham – they deservve to be paid fairly for the essential work that they do
Leon Sealey-Huggins, Warwick UCU (Committee Member): Solidarity with all of you having to fight for a decent wage.
Claire Sedgwick: Solidarity with all low paid colleagues, we are the university!
Catherine Senger, University of Sussex: Fair pay for all!
Arianne Shahvisi, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Robyn Smethurst: Noone in their right minds needs an £80,000 bonus, how can you sleep at night knowing stafff on your campus, who work night and day to give the university the reputation you profit off, go hungry because they aren’t being paid enough?? Shameful
A. Smith, University: Completely with you there!
Max Smith, UNISON
Stephen Smith, Cardiff University, UCU
Dr. Richard Snape, De Montfort University & UCU: It is heartbreaking to read this account. Indefensible that such huge salaries for senior managers are justified based on ‘performance’ predicated on advising precarious workers extracting ever more work for minimal pay.
Steven Stanley, Cardiff University: Our colleague at Birmingham ‘works a 36 hour week term time contract with the university taking home after stoppages £977.96, a little over what (The Vice Chancellor) earns in 4 hours”. This kind of gross inequality, which has become a taken-for-granted norm, is a damning indictment of the UK university sector and the society in which we live. The Birmingham University VC should show strong leadership and use his power to expose and challenge this inequality at this institution. This will send a message to other VCs to follow suit.
Anna Stavrianakis, University of Sussex
John Stokes, NASUWT5: If there’s money for a bonus for the highest paid, there’s money to pay a living wage for all staff.
Aisling O’Sullivan, University of Sussex/Law
Mike Robert Sutton, Retired Nottingham Trent University 2018: Since university managers have now embraced the main corporate managerialism ideal by embracing the “bottom line”, which means minimising expenditure whilst maximising income for all staff except for managers, they should end such self serving hypocrisy. Our universities are not corporations, despite the fantasies of those who want them to be. I very much doubt the VC will accept this challenge. Why? Because the “bottom line” calculation will be that they wish to maximise their own income at the expense of everyone else.
Thomas Swann, Loughborough University
Benno Teschke, University of Sussex:We cannot go on like this in the University sector (or anywhere else for that matter!).
Holly Thomas: I support all support staff who work so hard for the university and don’t get paid enough in return
Laurence Totelin, Cardiff University
Clare Turnbull, Queen Mary Unoversity of London
Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University: Wealth & pay inequality is out of control in UK – universities should lead not follow
Kavita Vedhara, University of Nottingham: I am ashamed to work in a sector that treats its colleagues in this way.
Derek Wall, Dept of politics and international relations, Goldsmiths College, University of London: Universities sadly are a glaring example of the accelerating inequality in the UK. We need to close the gap. Learning more about the effects of low pay is vital, so I am happy to support this challenge to senior management to live off low pay for a month.
Sue Walsh, University of Reading: Please take this seriously Vice Chancellor Eastwood, all University employees ought to be able to have a decent quality of life and this is not it. University support staff are essential to the running of a University, and should be decently remunerated.
Karen Wenell: Greater fairness is needed!
Rebecca Semmens-Wheeler, UCU
R. Whitfield, UCU
Ben Whitham, De Montfort University
Andy Williams: Cardiff UCU
Jonathan Williams, Unison member: All staff deserve a decent quality of life and the university is responsible for this not being the case.
Louise Wise, University of Sussex
Florence Woolley: Your university would not be able to function without the tiresome hard labour of those who work long hours that go unnoticed and underpaid. All staff should be equally respected and appreciated. It is a disgrace to think that those at the top receive hefty salaries as a consequence of the exploitation of staff members who are struggling to feed themselves and their children despite long dedicated hours of work.
David Young, University of Nottingham