University of Birmingham Student Workers - Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor

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Dear Professor Sir David Eastwood, 

As students at the University of Birmingham, we are all proud to be part of an institution with such a world-class reputation for teaching and research within the city. Increasingly, however, we are concerned that the university is failing to meet an equally important duty to be a world-class employer, including for students who complete casual work here. 

Recently, the switch to the New Core payment system has caused no end of difficulties and frustration with students receiving payment for their work over at least the last three months. As students involved in this, we have been following the current dispute between the University and the support staff represented by UNISON very closely. We have found our shared experience to be a huge cause of concern for both us and other members of the Birmingham community. 

Reports of Worklink, Payroll, and New Core ignoring calls and emails (or taking over ten days to respond), rude responses to students and false promises of payment, inaccurate ‘emergency’ taxation over over £100 on wages of only £300, failure to set up New Core accounts, failure to update students on the status of their wages, blaming students for Payroll not having bank details when students have correctly submitted this information, and pay from over two months ago not being received with no explanation are currently widespread. This has resulted in many of us having to repeatedly call the different parties involved, often to no avail. 

We are struggling to see the justification given for all of these payments, taxation and communication issues, especially as some wages were paid on the 23rd August (albeit reduced by emergency taxation) as ‘faster payments’ when phone calls were made on the day asking why payments had not been given. The lack of communication from the University in this situation has been extremely concerning, particularly because many students are relying on this pay over the summer to pay rent and bills, forcing some to take loans or borrow money to cover summer expenses which they have already worked hard to meet. 

In addition to the dispute between UNISON, support staff, and the University, as students and contributors to the daily running and intellectual output of this institution, would like to express our frustration and concern at the way we, and all of the other workers at the University, have been treated. It is extremely unfair, insulting, and unnecessary for these issues to have become so drawn out and inconveniencing for us and many others. As a result of this, some students have said that they will refuse work from the University in future. 

We close this letter by urging you to actively rectify the problems faced by students dealing with Worklink, Payroll, and New Core, and to open up discussion with UNISON regarding the treatment of support staff, ensuring that the University of Birmingham becomes a Real Living Wage University and employer, which students can also work for knowing they will be employed fairly. 

Yours sincerely,

University of Birmingham Student Workers (UBSW)