Staff Guest Blog

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A   member of support staff on why they are stiking today and why they supported the occupation

Just before Christmas Defend Education got contacted by a member of support staff:


“Thank you for supporting staff, it is really appreciated! Especially because some staff feel uncomfortable striking. Management sends emails to all of us before each strike is due, often mail merged with our full names on to give a Big Brother impression. They pointedly say that they don’t know who Union members are, but that the University is going through “hard times” and trying to make the point that it’s morally bad for us to strike. It completely misses the point that we do it because we have to- not because we want to. We feel bad leaving colleagues to man the office, we feel bad letting the students down and Management exploit this. I have talked to staff across several departments asking why they don’t come out- it’s their pay too. They point to the lawsuit laid on recently to the two students (paying customers) in court: who can afford to defend themselves in court at that kind of level? Some point to those in management who watch the strikers from the sidelines or take pictures and shake their heads, looking worried. Some quietly say it’s “not worth making life awkward in the office”. However,those I’ve spoken to were very cheered by the student rallies on campus. We heard you roar and it really made us smile and feel appreciated. THANK YOU from those who don’t feel they can speak (for whatever reason)!“


How could we get more staff involved with the strikes?


“I am unsure. It’s difficult to persuade people to stick their heads up when they have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed etc. Especially those who aren’t on a living wage- they can’t afford to strike, very literally. They shouldn’t be put in a position where they feel they have to either- most people just want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. It isn’t illegal to be open about things they feel are unfair, or to join a Union, but…. Well, you know what I already said. I think open support from the students goes a long way. It puts a bit of faith back that we’ll see justice done, rather than feel ignored. Students have a lot of power that staff don’t feel they themselves have.“


What can students do to support you?


“I don’t know how students can alter the working climate, except by standing with those who decide to standup. Come and support us on the strikes. Even if it’s just for half an hour between lectures. The Management count how many people turn up ( this makes some people very uncomfortable) so every single person who comes is welcome.Even just standing there silently is more morale boosting than you could possibly know. You have the power to strike as well as the staff do. You’re paying for your education (and will pay more if some Universities get their way).


Please be patient with staff who stay and man offices during this time. Believe me, we’d rather be doing our jobs and helping students have a great experience here, and go home feeling we’d made a difference to our customers today- we shouldn’t have to strike. But if we don’t do something the Management will continue to ignore us. We aren’t having 1/365 taken off our salaries any more, it has been upped to 1/260 very recently. That’s a lot of pay we are going without in order to try and be heard. Particularly if you have families to feed.


The one other thing students CAN do is keep up the pressure. You are PAYING CUSTOMERS, not cash cows, and you should have a say in how the management spends YOUR hard earned money! Ten of you are paying for the Vice Chancellor’s gold bath taps. Yet the management chooses to spend a fortune on management bonuses, court orders and officials to drag protesters out of the Senate at 6am (rather than during business hours),instead of paying the people who work hard a living wage. If you buy a bar of chocolate, you’d buy the Fair Trade option. You have the right to exercise the same principle here! Demand an account of how your money has been spent. Email addresses are freely available public information.


Talk to other students from other Universities. Talk to your families. Talk to anybody who will listen. Are you on a Media course, with contacts in the business? Are you a Law student who feels they could support the DefendEd Brum volunteers? Are you a HR student who knows a thing or two about employment law? Ask: are other Universities subjecting their students to this sort of thing? Start spreading the word. If you saw someone was doing something immoral and you couldn’t physically stop them because they are more powerful than you, you’d loudly shame them into stopping, wouldn’t you?


The Student Survey is coming out soon. We’ve had glowing results for a few years now and it’s made us (support staff) proud. Because we worked hard to see that our students had a good experience and got the education they paid for. Don’t demoralise the support staff who have worked so hard, if you have been served well by us in most respects, but if you can see an opportunity in the Survey to express disgust at the way staff are unappreciated here, feel free to say so. It’s YOUR Survey and YOUR voice. Use it. Speak. Roar.

Thank you Defend Education Brum. And thank you, students!”