On Thursday afternoon (1st of August 2019), members of UNISON University of Birmingham branch went to VC David Eastwood’s office to hand-deliver the challenge letter addressed to him and the rest of senior management. The letter was written by a low-paid member of staff who is struggling to make ends meet, and who, due to the low pay she is receiving at the University of Birmingham, has been forced to take on a second job, rely on foodbanks, use charity shops to buy presents for her family, and sacrifice her own wellbeing and sleep in order to fulfil her responsibilities as a single parent, mother, grandmother, and worker.
The letter was accompanied by a cover letter written by the UNISON branch, asking the Vice Chancellor to respond within 2 weeks, and a list of more than 350 signatures and hundreds of comments in support, urging senior managers to accept the challenge of living on low pay for a month.
This is not an isolated story. Many other members have told us in confidence that they are really struggling financially, and that they are not treated with dignity at the University. As a result, all trade unions on campus have written a joint unions report with demands on pay, equality, workload and conditions (for instance, subsidised childcare), and have tried to negotiate with the University on them. Unfortunately, little progress has been made.
We have been taking three days of strike action over the 18-19 claim. The University have not addressed any of these demands, and we are left with no other choice but to continue to take action, unless senior managers finally agree to listen and address the poverty and poor working conditions on campus.
By the union office on the lower ground floor of Aston Webb.
By the Vice Chancellor’s office on the ground floor or Aston Webb.