I work at a posh university. The students are mostly privileged, but pleasant!
I’m a member of the union Unison and we are fighting alongside students and other unions for a living wage. A large number of student societies support us.
The uni management are resisting becoming an accredited living wage employer. They don’t like outside interference in their affairs, HR tell us. They like “control”. So, for example, Unison workers have to have local pay bargaining rather than national. One time the workers got a bonus in return for agreeing to this, but now it is just an impediment.
This year we got the same 1% as the national pay offer, so local bargaining is not doing us any favours, and our Unison branch has voted to return to national pay bargaining as soon as we can negotiate it.
Our branch covers admin workers, estates, grounds staff, caterers, security, halls — all sorts! The “blue collar” workers are treated worse than any other group of workers. They have harsher discipline, and no pay progression. They are the only group of workers that has had clocking-in imposed on them.
Cleaners aren’t allowed to take mobile phones with them when they are working. Basically, they are not trusted by management to behave themselves. It’s a sort of class control that wouldn’t be countenanced by the white-collar admin workers, let alone the academics.
The admin workers face their own challenges: a major reorganisation has led to enormous disruption and demoralisation. The workload is ludicrous, and many people are suffering stress or leaving the university altogether.
Needless to say, top management wall themselves off from all of this suffering, and pay themselves handsomely.
We are beginning to build a resistance. Our branch was in the doldrums but our organisation has improved. We have abolished some bureaucratic privileges, built a functioning committee, and improved communication throughout the branch. This year for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the members voted to reject the crummy pay offer.
We have begun a major campaign against stress, the main effect of which will be to expose how we need more people to do the work. It will show management and HR to be out of touch with what is happening to their workforce. I think the implications are enormous. They are playing with people’s health and lives — the negligence has to stop! This year the political climate has got more ominous, and the union will join in defending our members from EU member states who are worried about their future.
We have a lot on our plate, but we have no choice but to fight back, and moments of solidarity keep us going!