I’m not leaving the Trustee Board I have work to do.

So after immense public pressure last Friday the Guild released a statement saying that a nine-page letter containing seventeen separate explicit references to a resolution to remove me as an officer was an ‘admin error’. They are now only attempting to remove me as a trustee. During my term on the board it has made several extremely controversial decisions which as a member I have fought against in private whilst remaining silent in public. If I am not able to work from within as a voice for students then I will have to work from without, if the board won’t accept a strong voice on the inside it will get one outside.

I was elected to be a trustee as well as an officer and since the alleged grounds for my removal are of a clear political nature I do not accept this move as any more legitimate. I therefore call on the Trustee Board to defer this matter to Guild Council or referendum for students to vote on.

By the Guilds own bye laws it usually requires 25 guild councillors to request a vote of no confidence at guild council. However, I am aware that the trustees are not able to find 25 guild councillors to support a motion on the grounds of ridiculous & flawed charges against me. As such I also request that the Chair of Guild Council allows a vote of no confidence in me at the next Guild Council, despite the lack of democratic support so this matter can be settled democratically once and for all. 

Students have said loud and clear that they do not think any vote is legitimate unless it comes from guild council 39 guild councillors, the majority of next year’s sabbatical team are clearly stating this in a letter to the board.

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“THE VOICE OF THE MAJORITYsays:”

Thank you for whoever wrote this comment on this article, I lol’d. I thought I’d display this excellent piece of satire more prominently.

THE VOICE OF THE MAJORITYsays:

April 11, 2012 at 11:06 am

As a self-appointed representative of the vast majority of Birmingham students, I have a few communications to issue to this feculent minority who seem to support this dirty communist.

Firstly, you can’t keep harping on about the fact that you were comprehensively backed by the student body when elected. We have recently discovered the supernatural capacity that you and your scraggy lefty chums have to induce mind-alteration using nothing but paint and cardboard: how else would students have elected Furse and Jones? (The only alternative is that students actually want a strong, campaigning Guild, and that’s just a stupid suggestion which THE MAJORITY REFUTES.) As such, democracy is no longer useful, because it has been compromised by magic.

Secondly, the majority insists that you have done nothing useful with your time in office. As far as we can see, you’ve spent the year (when not suspended, and damn right, let’s have MORE SUSPENSIONS, they’re great) campaigning both locally and nationally against education cuts to courses, staff and students, and to raise awareness of and combat cost-centered obstacles to HE. I mean, need I say any more? What the fuck is that? You should have spent the year trying to get lower drinks prices in Joe’s, better club nights, and claiming credit for things that the University were going to do anyway. While you were at it, you probably should have undemocratically and furtively suspended a colleague on heinous political grounds, and testified against a student in a disciplinary. These are the kind of things that the MAJORITY want!

Finally, I don’t like the way you dress. You should wear more Hollister, and the majority is angry that you expect to be taken seriously without doing such things.

Viva la (bourgeois) revolution! xxx

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Trustee Board attempting to secretly sack me over Easter

Since my election as VP Education there has been an obsession by unelected senior managers and certain invertebrates in the union to not only prevent me from delivering my manifesto for a campaigning, democratic Guild, but also to remove me from office altogether.

In line with their campaign they have begun their second attempt to fire me on clearly political grounds without any consultation of the student body. In fact, they are now acting without any of the usual dressings of legitimacy and have simply called an emergency meeting of the Trustee Board for April 21st to vote on my removal.

This is a raw coup not just against me, but against all those in favour of a Guild truly being run by and for students. This follows the University expelling me from all committees, which along with my open letter to vice chancellor are amongst the reasons the Guild seek to remove me for.

Last September, with considerably more formalities, the Guild attempted a similar manoeuvre: suspending me for three months for taking part in peaceful protests and for attempting to re-energise the student rep system.

The Guild previously suspended me for three months without any democratic vote primarily for unfurling this banner.

My one regret from the suspension was that I conceded to their threats of more punishment if I spoke about the allegations being made against me. This time, despite the same threats I will not concede to any demands for secrecy. I am making all the allegations against me public so that those I truly work for, the student body, can decide for themselves whether I should be removed from office.

I believe that all the allegations made against me are of a political nature and therefore demand a public debate to allow for transparent and democratic decision-making (although it should be noted that me going public with the contents of my last disciplinary has been added to the latest list of charges, as apparently transparency “undermines” the Guild).

I’ve always stated that I will happily face a vote of no confidence at Guild Council or by referendum, and that should I lose such a vote I will resign from office without protest, confident that legitimate democratic processes have been fulfilled.

The full case of the Trustee Board is attached HERE please read for yourself the allegations made. I have also written a necessarily lengthy post in which I go through point by point rebutting their allegations.

The grounds for my removal

The grounds that the trustees bring against me include; the ‘Protest Against the Protest Ban’, my participation in the protests to defend students being disciplined for taking part in protests, the fact that the University have expelled me from their committees, criticizing the Guild for supporting the protest ban, going public with the truth about my previous suspension, and flying the Palestinian flag outside my office at the start of Israel Apartheid Week.  The full breakdown in the order presented against me is below, attached are the Guild’s letters to me.

“(i) The demonstration on 15 February 2012”

This is for my role in the protest against the “ban on protests”. The demonstration was organized by the University of Birmingham Defend Education Campaign, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and Defend The Right to Protest, and only a week before the protest took place was it finally gifted the Guild’s begrudging support.  However, the Guild, in a bizarre act, claimed the protest as solely their own, seemingly for the purposes of implicating me as the “sole organiser”. Their investigation recognises the other organisations who took part but fails to interview representatives of those organisations.

I had to scrape and claw to get the basic and minimal last minute support I did from the Guild (begrudging as it was). The demo was called months before the Guild came on board, which they only did a week before the event after Guild Council mandated them to do so.

The allegation is essentially that I “hijacked” “the Guild’s” demonstration by going a different route and that as such, I’m responsible for ‘putting students at risk’.

First, we need to start with the question of how the protest could be ‘hijacked’ against its will? What could cause hundreds of students in attendance to protest a certain way despite a multitude of Guild stewards and the rest of the Sabbatical Officer team attempting to physically block them and screaming at them not to leave the ‘official’ route? Those stating so loudly that the protest was ‘hijacked’ are essentially asserting that the entire protest ‘hijacked’ itself. They are suggesting that hundreds of students at our University are unable to think for themselves and instead hypnotically followed me, an allegation that is as ridiculous as it is insulting to the hundreds who attended.

They try and make it sound like I personally lead 200 people into a wall of oncoming traffic. The "ring road" which can be seen curling around the university in this picture is a quiet private campus road with a speed limit of 10mph.

The allegations that students were at risk are massively overstated: “On leaving the Guild the protest turned left onto the University ring road into head on traffic” –  this statement is completely ludicrous. The “road”, which can be seen circling the back of the Aston Webb building in the picture, is a private campus road, used for parking. There is next to no traffic and the traffic that is there is restricted both by speed limits and parked cars on either side of the road.  Campus road regulations specify strict rules that cars must travel at low speeds on campus.

The second allegation of “risk” to students involves the protest entering Chancellor’s Court and approaching hazardously close to a “dangerous drop”. Firstly, Chancellor’s Court was part of the Guild’s “official route”, so any risk here was in the Guild’s original plan anyway. Stewards and myself very quickly asked the two students who got onto the wall (near the drop) to get down for their own safety. This was a risk built into the original assessment that was easily managed. Thus to claim that the deviation put participators at risk is void, as their form of protest would also have done so.

The Guild’s investigation of these events attempts to conclude that only my actions have been called into question by the witnesses interviewed. The investigation, however, has been a farce. The interviewees do not represent a broad spectrum of students, instead the process relies on evidence from a handful of students heavily engaged in Guild politics most of whom who had already made repeated statements against me in public well before this event. The only other evidence is given by Guild of Students staff members and University security. Ridiculously, none of the organisers of the demonstration have had a chance to give evidence and only one actual participant in the demonstration was interviewed.

The e-mails included in the evidence against me show a senior Guild manager making deals with the university about what would be allowed at the demo without input from either myself or organisers of the demo, NCAFC, Defend Education or Defend the Right to Protest. The e-mails show the Guild manager and the university attempting to force the demo onto an ‘official’ route permitted by the University, a 3 minute walk from A to B. Is it any wonder then that when I was forced to read out the Guild’s statement on the route demanding they follow these orders from the university the students present many of whom had been involved in the organisation simply laughed and ignored the statement? For this complete institutional failure to maintain legitmacy by the Guild I am being given the sole blame.

“(ii) The occupation of Staff House on 15 February 2012”

After the demonstration, in an unofficial action which the Guild made it clear they did not support, around 100 students occupied the University’s corporate conference centre, demanding an end to the ban on protests and the disciplinary process against Simon Furse.

I accept my involvement in this sit-in, which was both peaceful and lawful. I defend my actions on the grounds that the right to protest and freedom of speech is under attack at the University of Birmingham (evidenced for example by the condemnation of the University by groups such as Amnesty Intl. etc). My actions were a proportionate response in defence of a long and proud history of student protest. As students working in the education system we can’t go on strike. Instead we take our equivalent of a strike: we do sit-ins and occupations – a form of protest that has been a key feature of UK student activism for generations. Indeed, at the University of Birmingham all the student representation we have on University committees was won in 1968, when 800 students occupied the Great Hall demanding a democratic voice.  Without these kinds of actions, the Guild as we know it would not exist.

“(iii) Disruption of the College Misconduct Committee hearing held in the Nuffield Building on 15 February 2012”

At Simon Furse’s disciplinary hearing, myself and a number of other students entered the room in which the hearing was taken place. We delivered speeches expressing our disgust at the entire process.  After this was complete we left and the disciplinary continued, although it was later adjourned. There was later a protest outside the room where the disciplinary hearing was taken place which I participated in, here is the video of it the Trustee Board’s report refers to in their allegations against me.

The disciplinary against Simon Furse is for his participation in a lawful and peaceful sit-in. He is part of a list of many student protesters being attacked for their defense of the public education system. It is right that we take action in solidarity to protect him from suspensions like those that a Cambridge student has recently suffered.

In response to the claim that I failed my VP(E) mandate by behaving in a manner inappropriate to my position as Simon’s representative, I would argue that throughout this year we have seen that official processes are not followed by the Guild or the University and that following these processes alone has no real effect. Rather, assertive action has proven to be necessary. Furthermore, given that I consider this to be an illegitimate disciplinary hearing, I do not believe my role was undermined by my actions, rather I feel I responded in an appropriate manner, as to conform to the disciplinary process would be to indicate my support for its legitimacy. Because I do not believe it to be legitimate, this would therefore have been the wrong action to take.

“(iv) Your suspension from all University Committees”

While it may sound obvious, it’s important to remember that the University and the Guild are, or at least are supposed to be, distinct and separate organisations. As a students union, the purpose of the Guild is to represent the interests of Birmingham students, even, and especially when those interests are in direct opposition to the wishes of the University as an institution (see £9,000 fees etc.). Therefore for the Guild to be effective in its role, clearly it’s vital that it stays separate from the University, and not sleepwalk into being an ineffective half of a two-headed beast, merely providing an illusionary sheen of student representation.

It’s hardly a stretch to argue that the expulsion of a democratically elected student representative from University committees is a political move by the University to shut out elected voices critical of their policies. Unfortunately instead of making a clear stand against this maneuver, the Guild has in fact complied with the University’s move and has sent different “acceptable” officers in my place. The Guild is essentially punishing me because the University is preventing me from doing the job I was elected to do.

As such, this allegation is unfortunately a sign of the Guild’s weakness: rather than remaining cohesive and strong, the Guild is allowing the University to essentially divide and conquer, or at least undermine the strength of the officers’ positions. Instead, the Guild should support me in opposing this move – because it has devalued the very core of what the Guild stands for.

“(v) A significant breakdown in working relationships with the other members of the Guild’s Sabbatical Team”

“It is alleged that there has been a significant deterioration in your working relationships with the other Sabbatical Officers”

Since several of the other officers:

  1. Suspended me for the entire Autumn term whilst attempting to remove me on highly dubious grounds
  2.  Imposed silence on me regarding this
  3. Then issued false statements about the reasons for my suspension
  4. Later publicly condemned me for releasing the true reasons for my suspension
  5. Isolated and slighted me once I was reinstated
  6. Gave evidence against a student to help get them disciplined then lied about this.
  7. Supported the ban on protests
  8. Demanded that I sign a letter to the student body containing false information regarding the protest injunction.
  9. Ignored democratic mandates to create an acceptable officer disciplinary policy
  10. Ignored democratic mandates to support the NUS week of action.

It should come as no surprise that there has been some breakdown in my working relationships with some Officers on the Sabbatical team. However, to claim that this is purely as a consequence of my actions is problematic at best.

“Non-attendance at meetings;”

This is a joke allegation surely? Three weekly meetings of the Sabbatical Officer Group regularly missed by many officers have been picked out as a reason to remove me. All these meetings I was either off ill or at another meeting.

Further, I’m alleged to have missed one meeting of the Trustee Board on March 27th, firstly they have the date wrong it was on the 26th. This was a meeting that I couldn’t attend at the request of lawyers representing the students under police investigation. This is only Trustee Board meeting I have missed, a fact that is particularly pertinent when one considers that attendance by Trustees is rarely over 2/3rds. Furthermore even if I wanted to attend this meeting it would have been extremely difficult for me to attend as it was called three working days in advance on a day I had already arranged to have off.

As to why I didn’t attend the SOG meeting on March 5th, the Trustee Board need not look any further than page 3 of their own appendices document: “The Vice President (Education) was requested to come in on the 5th & 6th March for interview. On both of these days the VPE notified the Guild that he would not be at work due to sickness. There, mystery solved.

These are pathetic points, clutching at straws in an attempt to present me as lazy or unprofessional. Considering that since I came into office last June that I have only taken 7 days off in annual leave, been sick for only four days and missed only these four meetings (out of dozens) all for good reasons, I can only laugh at this desperate allegation.

“Social media postings”

Even I am completely lost for words as to the nature of the postings that are considered a reason to remove me from office, especially as none appears to be given. The articles certain members of the Trustee Board are attempting to remove me for are below, all of which are factually correct. I believe this is simply an attempt to scare future officers into silence.

1.  My public letter to the VC David Eastwood in response to expelling me from all committees. https://eddbauervpe.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/public-letter-to-vc-david-eastwood-re-my-expulsion-from-University-committees-new-disciplinary/

2. My article arguing for democracy in the Guild https://eddbauervpe.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/where-is-the-democratic-culture-in-the-Guild/

3. My article publically explaining the reasons for my suspension, providing the facts to students http://brumoccupation.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/suspension-letter/

4. This post on twitter “@Guild_President I have just been found NOT GUILTY – due to there being “no evidence” against me, thanks for the punishment before trial.”

5. My post criticizing the Guild for supporting the “ban on protests” http://brumoccupation.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/injunction-letter-why-i-didnt-sign-it-is-not-the-Guilds-job-to-cover-up-for-the-University/

“Acting unilaterally”

The attempted Vodafone occupation on 14 March 2012”

For the record, it wasn’t attempted, I did occupy it. This is because Vodafone has been involved in a tax avoidance scheme that has cost the country £6 billion whilst the government claims cuts to higher education are ‘inevitable’.  More importantly in terms of the allegation however although appendix 11 does include Redbrick’s coverage of the protest and occupation, it does not include any evidence of the Guild maintaining any damage to its reputation as a result. Furthermore this is the same NUS demonstration the Guild refused to support yet here they are implying that it was an official Guild event where it becomes convenient, and anyhow the Vodafone sit-in was a personal protest done after the NUS event not as part of it.

Watch this video to see the successful peaceful demonstration against the increasing privatisation of higher education. http://vimeo.com/38760045

“The prominent display of a Palestinian flag in your VPE office window”

see my article Why the Palestine Flag is Hanging from my Office Window” 

I did this modest action to draw attention to Israeli Apartheid Week (starting that day) and to the suffering of the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation. It harmed nobody and if anti-Palestinian elements on campus being “offended” by this flag is justification to sack an elected officer without a democratic vote then I can think of far more ‘offensive’ things done by other officers…

This new attempt to remove me from office has been cleverly timed to start and finish during the Easter holidays whilst students are away from uni, not paying as much attention to Guild politics and unable to protest the undemocratic sacking of one of their elected officers. The allegations against me are clearly to do with my campaigning activity and reflect political disagreements between myself and those attempting to remove me. Thus the decision on whether or not I should be removed must be made by students at Guild Council or referendum not by a secret process of the unelected majority non-student Trustee Board that students were not supposed to know was even happening until after it was completed.

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New university schemes for revenue: exploit their students’ & employees’ children.

Having been expelled from all university committees as VP (Education), I have no choice but to stop appealing to the University privately and instead appeal to all members of the University for the change we need. The following article is based on the University’s management accounts (which have somehow made their way into my hands) . These are privately circulated to the university executive separate to the publicly published accounts. The contents throw new light on the University’s strategic vision. This is the second in a series of articles based on the worrying information revealed in these accounts.

“As any parent knows, it can be challenging to juggle work and the needs of caring for your children.  At The University of Birmingham, we have two Day Nurseries offering quality childcare and education for children aged 6 weeks to 5 years:” ­from the university of Birmingham website, promoting its childcare facilities.

Childcare is extremely important not only for hard-pressed university employees & students but, also their children. It helps improve equality in the work place, providing facilities that allow for maternity and paternity to be facilitated. Further for students it improves access to the university & learning to parents.

The university does charge its employees & students for the use of its onsite nurseries however, up until 2009/10 the nurseries were run not for profit. All the money generated was circulated back into the nursery’s improving the service, which was provided as cheap as possible. The university nursery services became massively over subscribed, reflecting the need of many students and university employees for a close to work nursery.

As of 10/11 & 11/12 the university has started running these services for profit to increase university surpluses. This requires the nurseries to produce a contribution of between £111,000 – £122,000 to university central finances (7% of the nursery’s total income or £305 per child) as paid in profit to the university. This money should be spent on the child and considering the strength of university finances (see this earlier post) & the poverty pay paid to many of its staff, this move could well be described as somewhat callous.

This is a move that students should be united in comdemnation of. These vital oversubcribed services, instead of being squeezed for profit, should have been invested in and expanded to improve access, equality and general well being of all the universities students and employees.

The universities private management accounts, showing one of the new revenue streams coming online the "day nurseries". I’ve blacked out the other over sections which will feature in other posts shortly.

This is the second in series of articles on the university, which will continue for several weeks & then be turned into pamphlets to be delivered around the university.

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Secret Accounts and the University’s Public Narrative on Cuts

Having been expelled from all university committees as VP (Education), I have have no choice but to stop appealing to the University privately and instead appeal to all members of the University for the change we need. The following article is based on the University’s management accounts (which have somehow made their way into my hands) . These are privately circulated to the university executive separate to the publicly published accounts. The contents throw new light on the University’s strategic vision. This is the first in a series of article based on the worrying information revealed in these accounts.

The University has a ‘vision’. Its big agenda under Vice Chancellor David Eastwood and even under his predecessor Michael Sterling has been of ‘sustainable excellence‘ – structural and financial reforms to ensure the university remains financially stable. This of course sounds entirely reasonable and fits neatly into the prevalent narrative also employed by the government of austerity and “unavoidable”, “common sense” cuts.

Under the Sustainable Excellence Budget, we’ve seen the University pursuing repeated pay cuts, closures to Departments and significant pressure being applied to the Guild of Students to conform to these aggressive measures. We’ve seen the inflation of halls fees, tuition fees, writing-up fees, PGR & PGT fees, and overseas fees. The University has aggressively pursued “vacancy savings” leaving many important posts empty. Furthermore, it has ‘explored new areas for revenue’, seeking profit in areas traditionally run for the general good (I’ll be releasing more on some these ventures later).

Much like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has exaggerated the debt crisis to justify cuts, the University seeks to hide its financial strength so as to justify the need for ‘efficiency savings’. The two remarkable graphs attached below show the incredible discrepancy between the private ‘management accounts’ and those publicly available.

What the University’s management are doing is of course lawful; the techniques that change the numbers between the two different sets of accounts are legitimate. For example it is perfectly legal & legitimate that the university does not include the profits from its subsidiary companies in the public accounts.

The public accounts are designed to give a “narrative” to the University’s financial plans. In fact, this practice is more or less encouraged. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which our Vice Chancellor David Eastwood was the former Chief Executive of states that “HEIs have an opportunity to use their annual operating and financial review (OFR) and/or other narrative reports to demonstrate the many ways that their activities deliver public benefit.”. The University’s annual accounts provide running commentaries from the University executives based on the public figures. The “managerial accounts” on the other hand are designed to be used to actually run the organisation and make strategic decisions.

The bottom line is that the University’s public narrative on its cuts is not matched by its private information. Crucially, it is the private information which is actually being used to make the decisions on the necessity of cuts to departments, pay & pensions – information that those affected by these decisions, and their representatives, do not have access to.

What the management accounts show

The management accounts show a cash surplus each year, nearly double that of the public accounts for the past three years. The most startling year was 2009/10 where management accounts display a surplus of £49.926m (10.7% of income) but the public accounts show a surplus of £25.353m (5.4% of income).

The briefing for this year’s public accounts shows that for the financial year 2011/12, which will be published in November 2012, the University has been reporting a £2.1m-£6.8m deficit, despite their private accounts showing a large surplus of £24.2m-£24.4m.

the private report is remarkably candid about the future “As present the university will publish a deficit for 2012/13, but based on past performance”, Management accounting practices are far less historically orientated than financial accounting. The figures in the statutory accounts include significant depreciation on assets bought in previous financial years, and exclude certain revenue streams. This may all be in line with correct accounting practice, but it nonetheless means that this provides a less accurate year-on-year image of how the University’s financial situation is changing than can be gained from reading the Management Accounts. As such, a glance at the Public Accounts suggests that the University is now in deficit, but management will be making choices based on accounts which show that they have a cash surplus.

for 2013/14 & 14/15 the private estimates are both well over the prediction on the public record. In public 13/14 is predicted between a deficit of £992,000 or a small surplus of £4.92 million, while privately the university estimates £24.265 million – £33.720 million. In 14/15 the public estimate is a surplus of £15.243 million, while in private they estimate £38.847 million surplus.

The University of Birmingham's private management accounts on which strategic decisions relating to the university are based. This graph is part of a revealing 15 page document which will be fully released in time. For now the information it contains will be released in a part by part analysis.

The Universities public accounts including the public accounts that will be published this coming November. These public accounts provide a narrative for the universities actions.

The Universities public accounts including the public accounts that will be published this coming November. These public accounts provide a narrative for the universities actions.

In summary

It is clear from these graphs that the University’s public narrative of financial weakness has been grossly exaggerated. At the very least the the public accounts on which the university justify changes are dramatically different to the private accounts they use to make them. University employees and students have suffered pay cuts and increased fees as part of this ‘all in this together’ attitude, and have been grossly misled. In the future, staff and students shouldn’t accept the same line from University managers so quietly.

This is the first in series of articles on the university, which will continue for several weeks & then be turned into pamphlets to be delivered around the university.

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Public Letter to VC, David Eastwood RE: my expulsion from university committees & new disciplinary.

On the 16th of March, the University delivered a letter to me informing me that they are expelling me from all my positions on all university committees, pending a university disciplinary which they will soon start against me.  My expulsion is without any due process and is entirely without any legal grounding other than the say so of the University.

Two weeks ago the officer team sent a private letter of complaint to the university, however the university have offered no formal reponse. I do not consider it within the power of the university to pick and choose who are the elected representatives of students and as such I consider it my duty to personally pursue robust action to ensure that the University do not consider taking such action against future student representatives. It is to this end that I have sent the below message to the vice chancellor David Eastwood.

Dear David Eastwood,

Thank you for the letter informing me of my expulsion from all university committees and the instigation of university disciplinary proceedings against me for the “Protest against the ban on protests”. While I will happily defend myself in another university disciplinary against me, expelling me as elected representative from all university committees is a move which reduces student engagement to a farcical illusion of a university democracy. However, this explusion is only the culmination of a year’s abuse of due proccess. From the beginning of my time in office you have sought to avoid any engagement with me.

As I took office I was barred from attending June senate; instead you requested that my predecessor Rob Hunter attended without me. Before the first meeting of University Council that I was elected to attend, you removed the VP Education from University Council, replacing it with a vacant non-sabbatical position.  During the summer, as chair of Senate, you vetoed the submission of all the motions I tabled for the upcoming September Senate. You eventually escaped me delivering the points myself due to my suspension by the Guild, however even this you decided to upgrade to a complete ban from campus.

Since my return to office I was able to take the opportunity to go to my first few sub-committee meetings and I was looking forward to the larger university committees in March. On the sub-committees I sit on, I have never received the papers for a university meeting more than a few hours in advance giving me very little time to dig up the most regressive changes being pushed. At the senate of Tuesday 17th of march you were attempting to gain the rubber stamped approval of several controversial items and suspiciously less than 18 hours before senate was due to start you expelled me for unrelated events taking place over a month ago.

It appears to me the university has completely forgotten why it engages with the student body on a formal basis. You don’t treat the student body seriously, you choose to ignore and shut down any voices critical of your policies, not just from your own ears but from the ears of any committee that could set a different direction. I was elected by students to represent them at university boards and while students in the guild may withdraw my presence at these meetings through democratic means, it is not for you to pick and choose who is the elected representative of the student body.

You have decided not to engage critically with the plurality of opinions on your campus, instead you have chosen to only listen to the portion student opinion that concurs with your own.  You have played fast and loose with the rules to shut out the student voice. I now feel I have a duty for the sake of future officers and students to remind the university exactly why they took the student voice so seriously in the first place.

As I am to be blocked then from any engagement with university committees without any due proccess, lobbying is put off the agenda. As such I will use the remainder of my period in office to as best as possible expose completely to all staff and students the full scale of the regressive measures being pushed by yourself & the university executive board which are usually hidden by your glossy PR.

By virtue of my position as VP Education I have access to all the university papers of my predeccessors, from most university committees documenting everything taking place under your tenure. I along with many other students am preparing a publicity campaign to start after the holidays to reach all staff and students. We will do this because if we are cut out of all decisions in a meaningful sense, then we have no choice but to stop appealing to the university privately and instead appeal all members of the University for the change we need.

For too long the university community has been trapped in the illusory idea of a representative process that is working for them. This year you have collapsed this illusion and exposed it as farcical undemocratic system designed to legitimise your own regressive actions. We now seek to expose & delegitimise your actions which this farcial systerm has been used to hide from view.

All the best

Edd Bauer VP Education University of Birmingham Guild of Students.

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Unison contracts campaign explained

University of Birmingham Unison Branch has launched this petition on working conditions and pay in response to the continuing changes being forced on its members. These new contracts are being phased in as contracts expire or places emerge. Many the university employees on these contracts are on the universities three lowest pay bands, as such are already working below the official poverty line.

This is a quick post for students explaining the points & why you should sign and share the petition.

“Maintain the current rate of pay for bank holidays and closed days and for them to be voluntary not compulsory;”

The university is changing contracts to remove higher pay for working bank holidays, weekends. Further they are making working on these days compulsory rather than an optional with the incentive of higher pay.

This is not because they are having trouble getting people to work on bank holidays, weekends or closed days for a bit of extra pay. Instead this is simply part of a vicious cost cutting exercise and it is not matched by any restraint in pay rises at the top.

“ To not increase the number of weekends staffs are required to work;”

“5 days in 7” contracts mean that employees will be expected to work “any” five days within a week that their bosses require. Rather than the Monday-Friday working week, with the weekend being optional days covered with extra pay. These contracts effectively abolish any contractual reference to the “weekend”.

This point in the petition is for the employees who have been already moved onto working “5 days in 7” contracts as there is no longer and built in contractual protection to stop the university throwing them onto difficult weekend shifts.

Weekends are obviously important to those working with families, and working weekend shifts is obviously difficult for parents. For those without families regular weekends allows for the pursuit of leisure activities and a personal life. Being able to make your employees work irregular 5 day weeks, may be convenient to the university bosses but it will be tremendously difficult for most working people.

This point calls on the university to not play around with working hours, despite the fact they now have the power to do so under the new contacts.

“ No extension of ‘any 5 day in 7’ contracts;”

 For the employees already given the new “5 day in 7” contracts it is important that these contracts are, replaced with contracts returning to the built in protection for the working week. The University of Birmingham needs to commit to removing these contracts from use as soon as possible. This leads onto the 4th & 5th points which outlines the contents of the new contracts.

“Provide contractual guarantees for staff on annualised hours that protect the health and well being of staff;” &  “Ensure staff working late at night have a safe means of transport home.”

 These changes shouldn’t be taken on their own. They should be seen as part of wider attack on the pay and conditions of support staff at the university. This attack includes; direct pay cuts by the university, increased use of insecure temporary contracts and the contracting jobs out to private providers who cut wages & conditions even further.

Anyone working for the University of Birmingham can Join the Unison branch here

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