All copies the Birmingham post were removed this morning from the Guild of Students SPAR shop by several angry student union officials. The Paper was removed after it printed a shameless spin article against the strike action planned by the university Unison branch.
The Birmingham post which describes its political alignment as “free market” ran a story clearly attempting to downplay the university’s workers grievances. It ran a headline article under the banner “University of Birmingham admits wrongly paying support staff double time at bank holidays”, attempting to portray the planned strikes as against the university trying to fix a “admin error”, that has lead to workers being overpaid.
The post claims “It was not known how much the error cost the Edgbaston-based institution or over what timeframe the enhanced payments had been made.” The interpretation of the contracts as giving staff double holiday pay have been in place for 16 years and the post was informed of this by officials however, they made the deliberate choice to selectively ignore this information. They have portrayed it as a sort term “error” rather than serious change in pay & conditions.
The article glosses over the facts. It claims that the university has offered support staff a 1.2% pay rise to most worth around £250 pounds. This is true they offered this deal in autumn and while it was not accepted it didn’t result in strike action and was seeming to be going ahead. What the article doesn’t mention is that months after the 1.2% deal was announced by the university, they decided to announce that the 16 years’ of double bank holiday pay had been “error” and would be removed, completely wiping out the 1.2% pay increase previously given during the bargaining.
The article attempts to portray the 2000 strong Unison Branch as isolated and extreme at several points by claiming that “other groups of workers had accepted the deal.” By which we can only assume means the non-unionized temporary staff with no collective bargaining schemes in place and who don’t have the chance to reject the offer.
The University has betrayed its workers publically offering them 1.2% with one hand a then privately taking this away with another hand by removing long standing holiday pay. There is visceral anger from students, student staff and university workers. We won’t stand by and let the universities actions go without staunch protest and our union won’t play host to rightwing articles that run university PR spin on the strike, attempting to portray the widely supported union as isolated and over a “admin error”. We don’t consider this a issue of free speech, we simply won’t play host to bad journalism and attempts by bias journalists to defame Unison.