Second member writes a letter to the Vice Chancellor

Hello Vice Chancellor,


I want to tell you a story about me.

Work story:

I started at the university, I love my job my manager is great and the team I work with are amazing. I am doing jobs that are above my pay grade and I don’t mind doing them as it is practice for if I choose to climb the career ladder within the university or choose to take the experience elsewhere and climb another career ladder.

I would like to point out that had I have stayed at the college as a GA but went full time instead of term time I would be on more money there than I am at the university as a supervisor.

Fast forward to October I have been at the university almost 2 months and my husband whose health has been getting worse collapses at kidney clinic while I’m at work. He is admitted to hospital again for a further 3 weeks so they can find out what is wrong with him. The kidney they put into him has given him a virus called Cytomegalovirus CMV for short. At that time he had over 3 million copies of this virus in his body. It was the worst case the doctors had ever seen at that hospital. He was days from death. Had he not have collapsed when he did I would most likely have lost my husband. This led to my husband having 8 months off work some of the time unpaid. The transplanted kidney has been removed, he has tests later this month to get him back on to the transplant list. I had to max out 2 credit cards and take loans to make ends meet. I’m now trying to pay all this back. I don’t have luxuries. I have had to give things up, my husband is a bus driver so thankfully I don’t need to pay bus fare to get to and from work.

I am now in a position where my husband is waiting to be back on the transplant list, he will be placed back towards the top of the list. He could be back on that list by the end of July, I am dreading they day he goes back on to the list because last time we went through 8 months of financial hell a year and a half later we haven’t recovered we still have credit cards near their limit we still have loans that need paying. As well as paying all of our housing bills (rent, council tax, gas, electric, water) we have to pay for the up keep of our house as well. I’m not asking you to understand that cause it’s not something you have to do, we also have to make sure that his car is working and we have enough money for fuel so he can get to work, but more importantly so he can get to dialysis to get the treatment that he needs to stay alive. Again not something you need to worry about since the university provides both of these things for you.

You seem to have the view that we are all taking this action flippantly and that it is all about money. For me this dispute is not about money, it is about the fact that you have said that if you give in to the unions’ demands we will have our sickness benefit and holidays cut.

I have been at the university nearly 2 years and have only ever had 2 day off through sickness. Generally your staff do not abuse the sickness allowance you give us, so why would you threaten to take it away? Are you going to do that university wide or is it just support staff you are going to hit with it. You know the lowest paid staff? You do realise that if you only take this from support staff this can be seen as discrimination, don’t you? Surely this will bring the university into disrepute and that is gross misconduct, and you would be sacked?

Do you think that we are lower than the rest of the university because we have service jobs?

I challenge you Vice Chancellor come live a year in my life on my wage with all the outside stuff I have going on.

As I’m sure you are aware money does not motivate people but we would like to be able to live comfortably we are sick of robbing Peter to pay Paul. But by paying staff enough money so they don’t have to worry about bills needing to be paid, staff are more content and are more likely to stay with the company rather than looking for higher paid jobs elsewhere.

I have to run my house on 1.5 wages due to the amount of time my husband has off work. He feels like he has failed as a provider because we are struggling.

I do not want a fortune like most others, I would just be happy to be able to live comfortably. Maybe have a little extra to spend on my kids. Maybe take them camping for a weekend or something. We have never been able to do anything like that.


Personal story that shows what can be going on in an employee’s life, beyond work:

6 years ago, while I was working elsewhere my husband and I received the awful news that he had chronic kidney disease (ckd) and would eventually need to have a transplant to treat NOT cure this illness.

My husband who works full time for a company who are multinational and is a multimillion-pound company much like this University. However, unlike the University they are an accredited living wage company. They actually pay a fair bit above the living wage to their employees not JUST the managers/ top of the food chain bosses. I had just gone back to work after having 3 years off when I had my youngest child, I had a 3 year old and a nearly 10 year old. I was working part time.

For the next few years I had to up my hours at work as my husband needed time off work. With CKD the immune system is compromised so he would pick up any slight little bug and it takes him 2-3 times longer to fight it off. I ended up working term time 36.5 hrs a week 38 weeks a year although they would try and get 39 weeks out of us for 38 weeks pay.

At Christmas 4 years ago my husband’s kidneys completely failed he had been off work for a couple of months at this stage due to symptoms of kidney failure. With 2 young children to make Christmas magical for I resorted to using a credit card. How I regret that. My husband started receiving dialysis 3 times a week 4 hours each time plus time it takes to plug in and come off your basically looking at him doing 16 hours a week in a dialysis centre to keep him alive. If he decides he has had enough and doesn’t have dialysis I will be a widow in 2-3 weeks.

For 18 months his life was up at 3am at work for 4.30am Monday Tuesday Thursday and Saturday. Work for 10hrs then come home pick our daughter up from school then go home get changed have a quick cup of tea then leave the house on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5pm to go to the dialysis centre. I would just be walking in the house as he is walking out. Sunday Wednesday and Friday were his days off work he would take our daughter to school our son preferred to walk to and from school with friends. After he had taken our daughter to school he would go home and sleep. He would sleep all day until it was time to do the school run again. He would then sit with the kids until I got home. I then had to cook a family meal Wednesdays and Fridays were generally simple meals that don’t take long to do due to my husband having to go to bed at 7pm as he had to be back up at 3am the next day. The only day we ever used to get together was a Sunday. However I would be so busy making sure all the house chores were done I never really did see my husband. I would however always make sure he had a really good meal on the Sunday. I had the time during the day to prep something nice for him. I loved working term time as it meant that I could sort the kids out for a week-2 weeks and the nice big holiday 6 weeks he was able to rest a bit more.

June 2 years ago we got the call we had been waiting for, our lives should have started again that day. An amazing family were giving my husband the gift of a normal life they had the worst possible news ever they had lost a loved one and they still wanted to grant my husband the gift of life. We got the call at 6am on the Monday as you can see from above my husband had already been at work for an hour and a half by this time. I called the control office and an inspector and spare driver went to meet my husband take over his bus and the inspector took my husband to hospital. I called my manager and told her I needed the day off compassionate leave, there was no way I would have been able to function at work with all this going on. I then called my father to come look after my children get them both to school for me so I could go be with my husband. Off I raced to the hospital (not much traffic on the road at 6.45) he had got to the hospital just before me. He had to have 4-hour dialysis before the transplant could take place to take off any extra fluid and take any toxins out of his blood. The kidney has so many more jobs than just filtering urine did you know that? He also had to go have a ton of tests to make sure he was strong enough for the transplant.

At 3pm I left to go pick my kids up from school and take them back to the hospital to see their dad. While transplants are normally straight forward I felt it was important that they see him before the operation, just in case. Have you ever had to worry about something like that? Have you ever had to worry about losing your life partner before you are 40? I was 35 at the time and I was scared of losing one of the most important people in my life. Let me tell you it’s not very nice at all.

The doctors took my husband to theatre at around 6pm that day, I took my children to my parents’ house where they would be staying the night. How I managed to drive, I don’t know. I got back to the hospital around 7 pm. Nothing to do but wait and deal with messages/calls to and from our family and friends. While I was sat on my own, I saw a familiar face who didn’t need to be at the hospital – my amazing best friend had come to sit with me. She had driven over from Telford as she didn’t want me to be on my own. Her kindness is amazing but I collapsed in tears. I think it was because I had been strong all day for my husband and children, I wanted them to pass their fear to me to let me deal with it so they didn’t have to so. To have someone there to be strong for me was extremely overwhelming.

It started getting dark, so I told her to leave. She had a long drive home. I made her promise to message me when she got home so I knew she was ok. I went back up to the ward to wait for my husband. It was now 11pm. I didn’t think he would be in surgery this long. The ward staff told me I may as well go home and they would tell me when he was back on the ward. There was no way on this earth that was happening. I was not leaving that hospital without seeing my husband. Around 11.45pm he came up onto the ward. He was sedated, there were tubes and wires everywhere, the sound of all the monitors was horrible. I can’t remember how long I had stayed beside him watching him. It got to the point where I was in the nurses’ way as they were trying to look after him so I went home. Looking at my bed without my husband in it knowing he is in hospital was horrible. I called my 2 staffies up on to the bed so I would have someone to cuddle.

Fast forward to the Tuesday morning my dogs were still cuddled up with me but my phone is ringing and it’s my husband. This is around 5.30am. I was getting up at 6 anyway to walk the dogs then go to my parents’ house to take my kids to school. My husband was still extremely groggy but we spoke and agreed once I got to my parents I would call him so our children could speak to him. This was really important for my son who was nearly 13 and understood a lot.. he needed to know his dad was ok.

Work weren’t expecting me in, it was another day compassionate leave. I spent the day at the hospital with my husband. He was drifting in and out of consciousness. He still needed dialysis as the kidney needed to “wake up” as the renal (kidney) team say.

I picked my children from school, took them home to get changed then we went together to the hospital so they could see their dad. It was emotional to say the least. My children were worried for their father. My kids spent the first week of their dad’s hospital stay at my parents’ house rather than at home with me. I missed my husband and my children. I felt extremely isolated, I made other plans with my parents about what would happen with the kids. I was back at work at this point too. My parents were to now pick my children up from school feed them then drop them to me and my husband at the hospital. My kids and I left the hospital at 8pm when visiting hours finished and we went home.

There were complications with the kidney, it wasn’t getting enough blood supply and the top and bottom of the kidney had started to go necrotic basically the kidney was in danger of dying. My husband spent 27 days in hospital including father’s day. A day he should have really spent at home his kids. He had many procedures, it got to the point where there was nothing else they could do to help the kidney wake up so they sent him home. He had to go to kidney clinic twice a week but couldn’t drive due to the huge operation he had not long had. I had to take him. Thankfully term had finished at the college, so I had broken up from work.

He still had to have dialysis twice a week until the kidney woke up.

This was never to happen. In August my then 12 year old nephew got run over, had brain surgery and it was 50/50 if he would make it off the operating table. A 50% chance is better than no chance right cause if he hadn’t had the surgery he wouldn’t have survived the night.

3 days later I interviewed for my job at the university thinking I will never get the job. But interview practice is always good. The next day my now manager called me and offered me the job.

After 2 weeks in a coma the medical team started to reduce my nephew’s sedation meds. He was in hospital for a further 2 weeks but up on a ward instead of being in intensive care. However he refused to eat the hospital food. So as well as looking after my own children caring for my husband full time, I was also up the children’s hospital everyday. Taking food to make sure my nephew and my sister in law were both eating.