The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Keep The Caterers protesters disrupt Estates meeting

Demonstrators interrupted a talk about the university’s £300 Engineering Campus plan to raise awareness and gain support for their cause


Demonstrators calling upon the reversal of plans to make 43 catering staff redundant disrupted a meeting by university management to discuss the billion-pound campus masterplan on Tuesday.

In the middle of a talk on the development of the new Engineering Campus which will be located just north of the main university campus near the Aquatics Centre and will cost £300 million, a small group interrupted the speaker holding up a large ‘#KeepTheCaterers’ banner while outgoing Campaigns & Citizenship Officer Hannah McCarthy spoke to the lecture hall’s audience.

“Like the junior doctors that are outside the MRI we feel we have a duty to [disrupt this meeting], to ask why, if there’s money for all these buildings, why is there not money to pay their staff fairly?” she explained in the meeting.

“After three years the university have finally agreed to pay staff of UMC the living wage, which has been the subject of much pressure from students and staff. But now, all of a sudden, they’re saying in order to pay for this they’re going to have to cut staff… whereas we’ve seen here we know that they have enough money to pay their staff fairly.”

She explained how many catering staff have been told that their contracts will be reduced to term-time only which would see their pay cut by around one-third. In the midst of such large-scale investment in the university campus, she questioned how the jobs lowest-paid, “treated with such disregard,” can be

“This is part of a broader trend of marketisation in education. [As] you can see, universities are increasingly run like businesses for profit, and I think that staff and students, we have to work together to demand a different kind of university that is run in the interests of the staff and students who work here.”

The group of seven then walked out of the hall together chanting “keep the caterers!” to applause from the audience.

The video posted to Facebook by the Keep The Caterers campaign carried the description: “Today we disrupted the Directorate of Estates ‘Campus Masterplan’ meeting. Here the university unveiled plans to build £600million+ worth of buildings. But we know that their real masterplan is to casualise the workforce and to line their pockets with even more £££.

“If there is money for swanky new buildings and ‘greening’ multistory car parks then there is money to pay staff fairly and to provide students with bursaries. Their plans to cut catering staff show a university concerned only with their position in the ‘market’, and it’s us students and staff, who continually pay the price for their profit-driven vanity projects.”

A university spokesperson said: “Consultation is ongoing between UMC Ltd and UNISON over a restructure of University catering operations on campus (FoodOnCampus) and in residences (FoodInResidence).

“A voluntary severance scheme was opened on 11th March for impacted staff and applications are being taken up to and including 29th April. In addition to this, any other catering vacancies that arise have been reserved in order to provide potential opportunities for affected staff. The University hopes to successfully conclude this process early in the summer.”

  • AA

    Good job! This needs far more awareness…