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September payday.. The New Core mayhem continues. Senior management need to be accountable for this mess

We would like to thank University of Birmingham Student Workers’ group for the fantastic work they have done over the past month, in collecting case studies, writing demands, and working closely with us on the issues that are faced by casual student workers. UBSW’s statement on Friday can be found here. They have also been on the BBC WM radio channel, speaking about their experiences: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfshHK4OYvg&t=4s

It was payday at the University of Birmingham yesterday. Hundreds of student workers and staff checked if they’d been paid the money owed over the summer and if their strike (and other) deductions were right. This is something that staff and student workers find themselves having to do with increased anxiety and attention, following the mispayments, delayed payments, over taxation, wrong strike deductions, a lack of timesheets and other problems that they had to confront over the summer. Read our reflections on the July and August paydays. You can also read our blog posts published in January, March and June 2019, signalling some of the problems with it. We have also had meetings about it with senior management throughout the year.

These problems have emerged since the implementation of NewCore, a new platform on which the University wasted dozens of millions of pounds while refusing to seek Living Wage accreditation, give staff for once in 10 years, an above-inflation pay rise (this pay rise would also be applied to worklink students’s wages) wouldn’t accept to tackle the gender pay gap, offer free sanitary products on campus, and make sure that staff are not forced into poverty and foodbanks. Management are refusing to take any responsibility for the stress and hardship experienced by staff and student workers due to the failure of the new system (which we’d warned them that it won’t work and asked them to delay its implementation). 

We would like to express solidarity with all Worklink, Finance and Payroll staff and all the administrators across the University who are undoubtedly going to experience yet another stressful couple of days at work. If you need support or advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us asap. You are not alone. ‪Needless to say, we would like to send solidarity to all those who’ve been affected by New Core and the poor decisions made by senior management in rolling it out without doing enough checks. If you’d like to submit statements about your experiences, please email us‬.

Those most affected by New Core mispayments have been casualised staff and students who are already experiencing precarious livelihoods due to low and insecure pay. Alongside these groups of staff, others who overall work full-time but undertake shift work have also been affected (at least one member has not been paid at all). The system is not fit for purpose. It cannot deal with anything that is not ‘regular’. The company behind New Core automates regular payments which do not include hourly-paid, casualised workers and staff. Those making the decision to pay millions of pounds for this platform should have known and prioritised this issue. However, it shows how little regard they have for precariously employed and paid staff and students. They must have known that there were hundreds of staff and students who are on ‘atypical’ contracts/ work arrangements. This system is based on a completely different type of institution – it is more useful to corporate businesses. The most basic thing an employer needs to do is to make sure people get paid.

It is important to stress that the issues that have emerged in relation to New Core are not simply ‘technological issues’. Instead, they show the inter-linked nature between problematic processes, a management team who do not properly consult unions and staff, and other policies which, combined with a problematic HR, Procurement and Finance system, can lead to complex repercussions for staff, student workers, the University, and its suppliers and institutional partners. We therefore recommend that you also read our demands jointly written with the other trade unions on campus, to understand the objections we have to some of the University’s processes, policies and benefits, and to read our proposed solutions to them: https://uobunison.org.uk/demands2018

Some of the problems we (together with UBSW) have identified:

  • students have still not received the amount owed (they had been overly taxed, paid wrongly, or not paid at all for work done over the past 3, 4 months)
  • students doing the same job & same hours have been paid differently
  • there are cases where students haven’t had their timesheets set up yet (and have not been paid) even though the work was done in June and July
  • some staff haven’t been paid at all (in Security Services); we worry there might be others in the same situation but they either are not in the union (and don’t know they could contact us), or they do not use computers for their job and don’t know how to use new core to check their online payslips
  • doctoral stipends have not been paid in full. In some cases, the mispayment has been done repeatedly over the past three months, in other cases this is the first time for students to be paid wrongly. Most of those affected have only had 50% of their stipends through. Despite being told that they would receive the rest of the money by the end of yesterday, this has not happened yet
  • some staff have had more pay deducted than it appeared on the payslip, i.e. it appears on the payslip that their deduction was just a few pounds but  in reality the money taken off their salary was the equivalent of a few strike days
  • staff in the University of Birmingham School do not have access to their payslips. This can have severe implications to international staff who are applying for visa, naturalisation, or residence permit as they would need to show original payslips to the Home Office. 
  • there have been issues of tax codes being reverted back after being changed by HMRC to the right one
  • staff applying for loans have said that all their past deductions show on the payslip. The sick pay deductions stay on your payslips onto future months. If you have a week off sick, it will show you had that in the year to date column even on future payslips
  • there are other cases where student workers are owed thousands of pounds before tax and expenses
  • staff who left the institution earlier in September have not been able to access their payslip because their account had been deleted
  • payments to various suppliers have been delayed (imagine the institutional repercussions!)
  • train passes fees have been wrongly deducted, leaving some with losses of hundreds of pounds at the end of this month
  • car parking fees hadn’t been taken off accounts earlier in the summer, and instead this month staff have been charged for the whole summer
  • some staff haven’t been paid for overtime work
  • deductions for (hyper-expensive) yearly sports passes were taken twice; same with car parking
  • contracts hadn’t been issued in time before casualised employees’ start of work
  • there has been a plethora of issues with expenses not being paid back on time
  • there have been serious implications to members’ Universal Credit claims
  • staff whose contracts are ‘5 in 7’ (you work 5 days in 7) have different days off each week but the New Core time card cannot cope with that. How are staff supposed to log holidays on it? There are also problems with how New Core interprets work done on bank holidays (staff are at risk of not being paid overtime, unless they use a particular way of inputting their data).

We can’t begin to imagine how stressed out frontline staff are feeling because of decisions taken at the top of our institution. UoB forced the release of New Core when nobody knew how the system would ‘behave’ and they did not take reasonable precautions not to affect staff and students’ pay. Staff don’t even know how the New Core payslip should look like, and how to interpret some of the deductions. There is no template from the university to explain this. 

If you’ve taken strike action, your deduction for each day should be 1/255th of your yearly salary.

Hundreds of staff and students have wasted hours and entire days trying to chase payments, wait in the queues, phone various departments, and have to send many emails in order to chase their payments. Many student workers and staff will be spending their weekend with much less money than they had budgeted for, and we are worried that many will have their overdraft affected by this and will be missing deadlines for paying bills. 

It is Saturday now and many still haven’t been paid despite reassurances that the money would reach their accounts by the end of yesterday. Senior management need to be accountable for this mess and misery caused to students and staff.

Senior management need to be accountable for this mess and misery caused to students and staff.

Angered by all of this?

Join the student-staff meeting on Wed 2nd October, 1-2pm

Join our picket lines on Thu 3rd October

Vote in the UCU ballots!

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