Take action today to support service workers on campus!

Dear fellow members,

As you know, over the past month, representatives from UCU, Unite, and UNISON have been meeting with the University of Sheffield human resources team twice a week to negotiate over issues related to the safety and security of all of the workers on this campus.

We are writing to you today to make you aware of the unfortunate policy which UNICUS, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Sheffield, has adopted during the current crisis. While the University has agreed to top up the government furlough scheme from 80% to 100%, UNICUS has elected to adopt the government furlough scheme only. This means that UNICUS staff, a mixture of students and non-students, will be making only 80% of their usual salaries during this time. UNICUS workers have been speaking out about the unequal conditions they are experiencing and The Forge Press has also written about Unite’s call for pay parity for UNICUS staff.

The bottomline is that many of the lowest paid staff members working at our University will now be making less than the living wage, threatening their ability to provide basic necessities for themselves and their dependents during a global crisis. It sends a clear message that some members of our campus community matter more than others.

UNICUS, which helps to run accommodation, commercial, and hospitality services, including many of the food service venues at the University, is a legally separate employer from the University of Sheffield. However, as a wholly owned subsidiary, it is nonetheless heavily intertwined with the University. For example, the two employers share a Chief Financial Officer, and the director of UNICUS is also the director of University of Sheffield Accommodation Services. Line managers employed by the University of Sheffield are in many cases responsible for managing employees from both TUoS and Unicus. In addition, the University is far and away UNICUS’s largest client.

For all of these reasons and more, the University ultimately bears a moral responsibility for the treatment of UNICUS staff.

After an extensive lobbying campaign by the Student Union and campus trade unions several years back, the University agreed to pay a living wage to all staff. UNICUS subsequently committed to paying “the equivalent of the Living Wage” as well and claims it has “an ongoing commitment to our most valuable asset, our staff; recognising their talents, the great customer service culture they display and the positive way they contribute”. A policy which denies workers a living wage during this crisis belies this commitment.

Many of you have already contacted us asking about the conditions of UNICUS staff and expressing your support. The Unite, UNISON, and UCU branch committees have jointly written to the director of UNICUS asking the company to provide proper support to their staff during this crisis. However, it is imperative that we speak up collectively as a campus community to make it clear that the University bears a moral responsibility to ensure that all workers labouring at the University, whether directly employed or not, must be able to provide for themselves and their dependents.

If you are able, please take 5 minutes today to email UNICUS director/ University accommodation services director Caryn Masters at c.masters@sheffield.ac.uk and copy in the VC at vc@sheffield.ac.uk.

An injury to one is an injury to all!


Sheffield UCU Branch Committee