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Student staff working in The Northern Oak (County) have seen their hours significantly reduced under the new management structure of the College bars, which took effect at the beginning of the academic year.
Of the twelve hours per weekday that the bar is open, only seven of these hours are allocated to student staff: 2PM-6:30PM and 8-11PM. According to a source, student staff working in the bar were not informed of these shift reductions.
It should also be noted that 8-11PM shifts are worked by one staff member per evening, even on ‘busy nights’.
This has led to concerns for the wellbeing of student bar staff working alone on busy evenings. One staff member reportedly received abuse and harassment from drunken sports players whilst working a busy night shift alone.
Another staff member, who asked not to be named, told SCAN; “I’ve been complaining to friends that I shouldn’t be working on my own.
“But I know how to close up, do the kegs, tills, that lot, so I just do it – I don’t want to lose any of my already diminishing shifts, or lose my job altogether.”
Aside from reduced hours, some County Bar staff members have expressed general dissatisfaction with the way in which the establishment has been run since the University opted to remove the licensees in each College bar, and replace them with three ‘Venue Managers’.
One individual told SCAN; “There is constant poor communication. The frontline staff are always the last to know. For example, there is no continuity with the bar times, which change constantly. We are constantly told that it is ‘our bar’, and asked to offer suggestions on how to improve the environment, but then they don’t listen or go ahead with their plans anyway. It’s all talk.”
Student bar workers have found themselves in further difficultly since the University took the decision, in March, to change its pay schedules from weekly to monthly. According to a spokesperson from HR, the University’s decision to end weekly pay was in response to the government’s Pensions Reform Act, which requires employers to automatically enrol employees who ear above a set weekly threshold into a pension scheme.
SCAN was told; “It was felt that taking a pension deduction from pay only to refund it when the employee opts out, would create unnecessary administration for both the University and the employee.”
However, students working on campus have been less than receptive of the new payment cycle. In response to an online poll on SCAN’s Facebook page, 38 of the 53 respondents expressed the view that weekly pay is more suitable, especially for students who rely on only their job for financial support.
Third year Theatre Studies student Leo Burtin wrote; “Back when the switchover [to monthly pay] happened, it really screwed me over as once my weekly payments stopped, the monthly payroll malarkey didn’t come into place until 6 weeks later, so I went nearly two months with NO money.
“During the holiday, I work the odd day or two, every now and then – having to wait a whole month to get £30 is a bit of a pain.”
SCAN has also been informed that many student bar workers have not received payment since the payment cycle was changed by the University, with many owed over £100.
MA student Jenni Carter told SCAN; “Mid March – end of May with no pay isn’t acceptable, especially because I’m a masters student who has to self fund, so I don’t have any other money coming in to buy food.”
She added, “I don’t see a problem with monthly pay in general… but the University needs to be more considerate of its student staff before making changes in future.”
PhD student and former County Bar employee Daniel Burnett was similarly critical of the changes to University payment cycles, and the way in which student bar staff are treated under the new managerial structure; “In prior days, the rota would be worked out a few weeks in advance, and each member of staff would be given at least one shift a week… Obviously, as it was weekly pay system, people weren’t too worried about only having the odd shift as they would still get £20-£30 a week to help pay for food.
“If the current system is to continue and students are only getting the one shift a week, then I can see staff numbers dwindling as they invariably take bar jobs in town.”
SCAN approached Human Resources for an explanation for missed payments, but did not receive a response.