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Incompetency, inconsistency, extra penalisation, and lies are what our members have experienced on July’s pay day

Incompetency, inconsistency, extra penalisation, and lies are what our members have experienced on this month’s pay day

Strikes are a last resort for any trade union branch and ours is no different. This is partly because we take our jobs seriously and need to balance any short-term disruption against the improvements we are looking for after the strike is over. The other really important reason that we only strike when we absolutely have to is because it means losing pay, and for members who are already struggling to make ends meet, losing a day’s pay is a big deal, never mind three days. Having said that, we want to assure members that we have got a hardship fund and they can claim a refund.

The University of Birmingham unreasonably deducts 1/260h of support staff’s annual salary for strike action

While all employers deduct money from striking workers, there are a number of different ways to do this. A strike day could actually cost a worker more than a day’s pay depending on how reasonable the employer is. Ours is not part of the reasonable ones.

One of the most disappointing things we knew before the strike was that for striking support staff the University insists on making a deduction of 1/260th of annual salary (because there are 260 working days in the year). This is an option open to all employers, though UNISON and other trade unions have argued against it for many years. However, in the University’s case the rate is particularly unfair given that they are choosing not to offer the fairer and smaller 1/365th deduction that applies to any academic or related member of staff who strike.

This means that lower paid staff at the University are penalised more by the university by losing more of their salary in percentage terms than anyone else working on campus. 

Though we highlighted the disparity with the University before the strike took place (we want our academic and academic-related colleagues to keep their 1/365th deduction!), they refused to change their deduction levels.  

We have been misled – deductions for all three days of strike action were made at once, despite the University promising to split it over two months

We also talked to them about when the deductions would be made and University management reassured us that only one day would be deducted at the end of July, with two days being deducted at the end of August.

It became clear on payday in July that many staff had lost pay for all three days action at once.

Mistakes and inconsistencies were made in deductions

We have no guarantee that the figures given are correct and members have identified many mistakes. There is no indication of how many days the deduction is based on, and it seems to vary wildly from staff member to staff member. We are talking about staff on low pay and often part-time or term-time only hours whose deductions could leave them unable to pay bills or meet other essential expenses, particularly when they were expecting smaller deductions to be made.

This is also alarming when considering that the University’s New Core system has cost the institution dozens of millions of pounds, and consultants are still being paid to work on it. May we add that the slogan of the system is ‘one single version of the truth’..?

They are taking their time 

We’ve raised this with University management as soon as we saw it happening but we’ve yet to receive any explanation or justification for the figures and the higher than expected deductions. It’s deeply concerning for a number of reasons, including the fact that staff need to be respected and not lied to. This needs sorting out as a matter of absolute urgency.

We’ve been able to support members affected by this by using our strike hardship fund, thanks to our own funds and the solidarity of those branches and individuals who have donated to it. It’s only thanks to them that we are in such a strong position to respond to this. 

If you have not donated yet, please consider doing so – it will help us carry on in our fight!

Here’s how to do it (via gofundme, bank transfer, or cheque): https://uobunison.org.uk/strike-fund

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