University of Sheffield must shield workers from Covid-19 financial crisis

Workers call for support as their pay falls below minimum wage

Unite, Britain’s leading union, is calling on Sheffield University vice chancellor Koen Lamberts to intervene to guarantee 100 per cent pay for all furloughed workers on the university’s campus amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

500 workers employed by Sheffield Students’ Union, who are on a toxic combination of the minimum wage and zero hours, as well as 300 workers employed by the university’s arm’s length company Unicus, are now being paid the equivalent of £6.16 per hour. They face a cost of living crisis.

Unite successfully negotiated improved sick pay, and enhanced furlough arrangements for the first six weeks of the lockdown but Sheffield Students’ Union now needs additional financial support from Sheffield University.

Workers directly employed by the university have been assured that if necessary they will be furloughed on full pay in stark contrast to the hardship faced by some workers who have contributed to making the university a success:

  • The vice chancellor’s basic salary is £285,000 per year; and
  • The cost of the University Executive Board’s salary and benefits is £2.4 million per year.

Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner said: “Workers at Sheffield University face a financial crisis. The minimum wage is not enough, so 80 per cent of that is disastrous.

“The vice chancellor cannot wash his hands of responsibility. He must step in to ensure all staff who have contributed to the success of the university, receive equal treatment.

“No worker should be left behind, that means ensuring that the university makes funds available to furlough all workers on full pay, including those employed by Sheffield Students’ Union and the university’s arm’s length body Unicus.”

Hundreds of staff employed by Sheffield Students’ Union (Sheffield SU) are being furloughed on 80 per cent of their pay from the beginning of May. Workers employed by Unicus the university’s arm’s length body were furloughed on 80 per cent of their pay since the beginning of April. Sheffield SU gets most of its funding from the university.

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