Friday, 27 March 2015

Success in University of Bath Living Wage Battle

Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts and the three trade unions at the University of Bath have declared a victory in their long campaign for a Living Wage at the university.

Press release from Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts:

After months of increasingly vocal protest on campus, the University of Bath has announced to staff this week that they will pay all workers at least £7.85 an hour – the equivalent of a Living Wage! For the lowest paid staff, many of them student workers, this concession from management represents a pay rise of over 20%.

In recent months, Bath Students against Fees and Cuts and members of the local trade unions have staged four demonstrations on campus calling for a Living Wage for all, an end to exploitative contracts and a reduction in overall pay inequality at the University. In February we held a “Vice Chancellor’s Day” party to highlight the growing gap between the highest and lowest paid at the University. We also had two large protests outside meetings of the University Council, and a lobby of University Court at the beginning of March saw Vice Chancellor Glynis Breakwell and Chancellor Edward Windsor forced to take a back door into the meeting to avoid the students and staff waiting outside.

It is no coincidence that University management have backed down now after months of pressure from protests and activism on campus. Campaigns for equality inevitably involve challenging and putting pressure on those with power and privilege, not by obediently “working in partnership” with them. This victory shows what we can achieve when we organise and fight!

Winning a significant pay rise for the lowest paid staff is a big deal. But while we are celebrating this success, the fight for increased equality and better conditions for working and studying at the university has only just begun. The pay increase that the University have offered is in the form of a “pay supplement”, which university managers could take away at any time, over two thousand workers remain on exploitative zero hour contracts, and overall pay inequality on campus is among the worst in the UK.

Bath Students against Fees and Cuts will be continue to fight for:
+ a maximum 5:1 pay ratio between the highest and lowest earners
+ a GUARANTEED Living Wage for all in-house and out-sourced staff
+ democratic control over senior management pay and appointments
+ action to address gender and race inequality
+ secure employment contracts for all staff, including students who work at the university
+ an end to fees tuition fees and a return to free and publicly funded education, which we believe is a right and not a privilege.

On Saturday 28th March we will be attending a national demonstration in Birmingham calling on the Labour Party to support free education and grants, not make weak pledges to reduce tuition fees to £6000 a year.
For more information, and to get involved in the campaign, visit and send us a message.


Standing Stone's Blog caught up with University of Bath student and Living Wage campaigner, Maisie Sanders, who told us:

“Hopefully this will encourage other businesses in Bath, as well as other universities, to pay their staff a Living Wage, especially seeing as the University of Bath employs more staff on the minimum wage than any other UK university. 

“However, there’s still a lot to be done in terms of lobbying the university to put people before profit. Thousands of staff are employed on insecure zero-hour contracts, which discriminate against women and disabled workers, and pay inequality is still staggering with the Vice Chancellor paid one of the highest salaries in British higher education.”

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Stop Benefit Sanctions Demo - 19th March

Anti-austerity campaigner Zarria explains the reason behind the forthcoming demonstration in Bath against benefit sanctions
Hello Everyone,

I am writing to invite you all to my Stop Benefit Sanctions Demo, on Thursday 19th March. 11 am start, outside of the jobcentre. It is a nationally organised Demonstration, organised by Unite in the Community. 

I would like to just explain (as briefly as I can) why I am doing this demo & why it is very important to me.
I’m sure I’m not contacting anyone who hasn’t seen the news, hasn’t heard the stories or isn’t aware of the austerity measures being handed out. We have all been hit, one way or another. We are all concerned about the rise in our utility bills, food & general costs of living. Our essential services are bearing the brunt of harsh cutbacks & so, it is having an effect on us all.

Under this particular Government, to save money from the welfare budget, some groups have been hit particularly hard. It isn’t just the people who are out of work & claiming welfare support. Working families, people on low paid zero hour contract, people on minimum wage & vulnerable people with disabilities have all been targeted. 2.3m families have affected by the bedroom tax and 380,000 families by council tax support cuts. Rising food, static incomes, underemployment and changes to benefits are some of the reasons why increasing numbers are being referred to food banks, for emergency food. In 2013/14 Food banks fed 913,138 people nationwide. Of those helped, 330,205 were children. They are conservative figures but I’m sure one does get the picture.
As long as you follow the rules of the benefit you’re getting, you should carry on receiving your payments. But if you don’t do something you’ve agreed to do, such as applying for a job or going to an interview, they may be temporarily stopped or reduced.  Offences, such as being minutes late for a meeting at the DWP, or going for an interview when you should be signing on, will get you sanctioned. This link below will allow you to look at some of the ridiculous reasons people have been sanctioned & for how long.
Stupid sanction reasons but nonetheless, they are real reasons used. Some people would say you know the rules, so don’t break them. Which would be fair enough but the rules aren’t at all flexible & as some in the link, not explained. Sanctions equal no food, no gas, no electricity, no credit for the phone, nothing for weeks. It’s hard enough to live without a job but it’s really hard on welfare.

I’m sure there are people who exploit the Benefits system but I haven’t met anyone who does. The Media (print & broadcast) portray the ‘benefit cheats’ as skivers, drinking, watching Sky TV (don’t start me on why they shouldn’t be doing that) & having hundred’s of children, whilst doing some odd cleaning jobs (e.g. for a Politician). I’m not defending anyone who gets away with cheating but I am standing up for those who find life hard, can’t get a job (for whatever reason) but try to make their lives better. I was doing two voluntary jobs, supporting people into work. Helping people look for jobs, use the Universal Credit job search website, helping them get ready for work, write CV’s, filling in forms for people who couldn’t write very well but I was made redundant. The funding was stopped & I really don’t know how they are fairing now. I’m standing up for the people who may get sanctioned because the system (IDS & Co) says they can be sanctioned.
If you can join me, on the 19th, fantastic. If you can’t, don’t worry. I’m doing it for everyone.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts - A Week of Action

Living Wage lobby of the Bath University Council
In their busiest week yet, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts undertook three actions for their campaigns against tuition fees and for a Living Wage at the University of Bath.

The actions started with a Living Wage lobby of the University of Bath council, along with the university unions, on Thursday 26th February. Many students have jobs at the university as well as non-academic staff, and many are paid below the Living Wage - an hourly rate calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK - currently £7.85 an hour. The campaigners started the demonstration at 3.30pm in the stairwell of Wessex House, where the council meeting was being held. Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts campaigner Katy Boyce told us "Around 20 people petitioned and lobbied members of the university council, including the Vice Chancellor, for a Living Wage at the University of Bath. The Vice Chancellor was visibly perturbed by our presence and the confrontation with one of our members".

While on her way to the meeting, demonstrators confronted Vice Chancellor Glynis Breakwell over the issue. Joe Rayment, the Young Members' Officer at Bath University Unison was able to engage in dialogue with the Vice Chancellor. Joe told her "More people than are here today could be paid on  a living wage just with your salary", to which the VC replied "I can do the maths. Joe then replied "Can you do morality?". A video of the confrontation has now exceeded 800 views since the weekend.

                                         Living Wage lobby of Bath University Council

When asked about the confrontation and the video, Joe told us "I am incredibly pleased by how far and wide the video has been spread. The fact that the Vice Chancellor is either unable or unwilling to defend her bloated salary is demonstrative of the interests that she is serving through her management of the university."

Free Education banner at the
Bath Half-marathon"
On Sunday 1st March, members of Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts lined the route of the Bath Half-marathon with "Free Education" banners. Several members of the group were also running in the half-marathon. The action was intended to raise awareness at the high-profile event. A campaigner from Bath Students Against Cuts told us "The issue does not just affect current students, but the consequences of extortionate tuition fees will be felt by generations to come".

The final action of the week was a lobby of the Bath University Court - the statutory body representing the interests of the University's internal and external constituencies. Demonstrators from Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts and the university unions began the protest at 3pm on Tuesday 3rd March outside East Building.
Living wage lobby of Bath University Court

Attendees of the Court meeting included Vice Chancellor Glynis Breakwell and Chancellor Prince Edward, who rather than face the campaigners chose to enter the building via the back door. Demonstrators handed out letters from the unions and from students to members of Court, raising their concerns about the university not paying the Living Wage.

                                         Living Wage Lobby of Court Video

Katy Boyce told us "The Court members were generally quite receptive, many of them took leaflets and some even signed the petition."

Joe Rayment from Bath University Unison attended the court meeting: "In the court meet I challenged the VC to commit to a reduction every year in the pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff at the university. She said she would not commit to this because if the university is to stay competitive, apparently we must pay our best people well. When I sought clarification about whether this meant that she was threatening to leave if she did not continue to receive large pay rises every year, despite being the highest paid member of staff at the university, she claimed that this was not what she was saying."

If you live in Bath and support Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts, get involved! Their Facebook page is and they post details of meetings and actions there.