Read the letter here: uobunison.org.uk/challenge
List of supporters: https://uobunison.org.uk/supporters-of-the-challenge
Hundreds of higher education staff, students, and alumni have endorsed a letter challenging University of Birmingham senior managers to live off the salary of a typical member of support staff for a month. Other signatories include Birmingham MP Preet Gill and local councillors. The list can be found here: https://uobunison.org.uk/supporters-of-the-challenge
Members of the UNISON branch read out paragraphs the letter in a video that accompanies it:
The letter is a frank and striking window into the life of a single parent juggling two jobs on low pay, struggling to make ends meet while not having any time at all to spend with family. The author of the letter draws attention to the gulf between the salary and working conditions of many support staff at the University and those of its highest paid senior managers.
UNISON University of Birmingham branch published the letter, written by a full-time member of support staff, on the 9th July. It is addressed to the University of Birmingham’s Vice Chancellor Sir David Eastwood. UNISON highlights that 109 top senior managers of the University are paid more than £100,000/year, with David Eastwood himself earning £444,000/year, and soon to receive an additional 80,000 one-off bonus. Eastwood also received £90,000 as Chair of the USS pension scheme.
Outsourced staff working at the University-owned Edgabston Park Hotel earn as little as £8.21/hour (having received a 1p pay rise in 2019). While directly employed staff at the University earn a minimum of £9/hour, the University of Birmingham has refused to seek Living Wage accreditation and most support staff have seen the value of their salaries plummet in real terms over the past 10 years, UNISON state.
Introducing the letter on the website, the branch state that they are ‘currently in dispute with the University of Birmingham’ and are ‘left with no other choice but to strike again on Tue 16th and Wed 17th of July, on the University’s Graduation Days’. The first day of strike action took place on the University’s Open Day on Friday 28th of June. They demand Living Wage Accreditation, ending the gender pay gap, an above-inflation pay rise, restructuring support staff pay spines, and meaningful negotiations on a set of working conditions demands submitted jointly with the other trade unions on campus. A campaign to end outsourcing on campus is also ongoing.
The letter provides a breakdown of all the most basic bills that the parent has to pay every month, while working a 36-hour week term-time contract ‘taking home after stoppages £977.96, a little over what you earn in 4 hours’. It adds: ‘If you have a calculator at hand you will see I am already in the red and still have not bought any food or personal items’.
The challenge reads:
‘I would like to challenge all senior high earning management within the university and yourself to swap your incomes and outgoings for 1 month, put yourselves truly in our shoes – the catering shoes that we now have to pay for ourselves due to more cutbacks. Then ask yourselves are support staff valued, respected and rewarded as they should be? I understand the bank balance is not a bottomless pit and I understand the need to invest in the university but what I don’t understand is how you can justify taking hefty bonuses whilst other staff members can’t afford the basic necessities’.
UNISON expect other members of staff to write similar letters to the University’s managers over the next few weeks.
Please be aware that domestic violence is mentioned at the start of the letter.
The full letter and its video can be found here: uobunison.org.uk/challenge