The Students’ Union have u-turned over their initial plans to potentially fire and rehire a number of lower-earning staff. In a leaked email seen by Gair Rhydd, the SU has stated that “as a result of new information which impacts the Company’s financial position, we are pleased to confirm that we are now in a position where we are not progressing with the proposal to remove grade increments at this time.” The email, sent by a staff member at Cardiff Students’ Union was sent to all members of staff affected by the proposed changes.
The initial plan, as revealed by The Cardiff Tab on Thursday, was met with widespread outcry by students who criticised the measures as “immoral” and “a new low” on social media. The majority of the opposition revolved around cost-cutting measures that were suggested following the severe financial impact of COVID-19 on SU finances. Staff contracts usually contain a contracted yearly pay increase, or grade increments, until they reach a salary limit. It was proposed that up to 45 members of staff would be asked to forgo this contractual yearly pay increase and it has been alleged that any staff who failed to agree to these changes would be fired and rehired on new contracts.
A spokesperson for the Student’s Union responded to the latest development by telling Gair Rhydd “The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the way the many organisations are operating. The Students’ Union is not exempt from these challenges and is adapting to new ways of working to ensure students and staff are supported to operate throughout this time.
“The limits on nightclub and other trading activity have presented a number of financial challenges for the Students’ Union, over the past couple of months senior staff and the Board of Trustees have been working to make savings to ensure staff jobs are protected to enable us to deliver our vital student services and activities. We are proud no compulsory redundancies have been made and no staff member has taken home less in their monthly pay packets – something many organisations have not been able to achieve.
“Over the past six weeks we have consulted with staff regarding voluntary actions to prevent our staff costs increasing over the next year. We have decided to not proceed with these actions, as further savings have been made in other areas.”
This row has been especially prominent given that, at the 2019 Annual General Meeting, a motion was passed to ensure the Students’ Union became a National Living Wage employer. Leo Holmes, the proposer of the motion, told Gair Rhydd “It’s encouraging to see the Students’ Union u-turning on this issue. It’s vital that companies who employ students and young people, especially at this time, treat their workers with respect and dignity, paying a fair wage.
“It is now important that the Students’ Union continues its plans to implement the living wage motion in the two year time limit they have left.”
One of the harshest critics of the original plan was Cardiff University Labour Society. President Joe Shaw spoke to Gair Rhydd about the changes and believes that the decision to u-turn is “fantastic news”. He went on to say “thank you to all our fellow student activists for applying pressure on the SU to u-turn on such immoral cuts. Now it’s time the SU listened to its democratic student body and applied the living wage to all its workers!”
James Wallice, President of the Cardiff University Conservative Association had posted his opposition to the initial plan on social media last week. Following the recent decision, Wallice told Gair Rhydd “I’m sure it’ll come as a huge relief to staff to hear that the SU have dropped proposals to fire & rehire staff under new employment terms.