No response from the VC | Members are faced with an arbitrary searching policy instead

As we’ve detailed previously, a member of support staff working at the University wrote a letter to the VC challenging him to live on the same salary for a month, and highlighting how hard it was to live on the pay the University offers its lowest paid staff.

After sharing the letter and asking for supporters, we delivered the letter (with more than 350 signatures at the time) to the VC on Thursday the 1st of August, asking for a response to the author of the letter within two weeks. We’ve received an acknowledgement of the letter but no further communication, and no request for extra time to respond.

Rather than a reply to our letter, what many low paid catering staff received last Thursday (when the reply to our letter was due) was a new policy dictating that they would now be subject to arbitrary searches at any time whilst at work. UNISON have asked why this policy is necessary, given that there are (as far as we know) no issues whatsoever with thefts from catering units and staff are already responsible for their tills balancing – we’ve yet to receive an answer.

We can only assume therefore that this searching policy comes from a deep mistrust of their own staff on the part of the University (as well as prejudice about catering staff). Rather than properly addressing staff concerns and treating them as a partner in the institution’s success, University managers systematically underpay and belittle their lowest paid employees. 

We need answers to the concerns raised in the letter and by the other staff and members of the University who supported it. And we need an offer from the University that meets our demands!

The cash handling and security policy has been circulated to staff in hospitality and accommodation services at the university. The policy includes reference to mandatory searching of catering staff “anytime whilst at work” and in general gives the impression of a lack of trust in employees.

HR informed us in June that they were seeking to introduce such a policy and we highlighted this as well as asking what the justification is for introducing such a policy when we weren’t aware of any instances of theft on the part of catering staff.

We also asked for loss figures supporting the necessity of such a policy. We have had no explanation of the reason for introducing it, nor any statistics or data showing it to be necessary. We are deeply concerned that this has now been circulated without proper consultation with us.

As a result, we are advising all staff in HAS catering not to sign this policy or consent to any searches. If you face any questions for doing this please state that this is on the basis of trade union advice, given that any such change to University policy needs to be consulted on and agreed with the trade unions.

If you do face undue pressure to agree to this policy or to be searched then please contact Mike on 07964926949.

We’d encourage all members to share this guidance with catering staff, whether they are trade union members or not.


The search policy states:

  • ‘the manager has a right to conduct employee searches whenever deemed necessary in order to maintain the safety and security of the University, its employees and customers
  • only a member of the management team, senior management team and university security team can undertake employee searches along with a witness
  • you may be subject to a search anytime whilst at work
  • the search must take place in an office and where possible in view of CCTV
  • the person responsible for conducting the search will introduce themselves and explain the fact that the search is to take place
  • the person conducting the search will be the same sex as the person being searched however the university witness may be the opposite sex
  • for further details regarding the staff searches please refer to the staff search policy by asking your manager for a copy.’

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