A member of the Students’ Union Executive has been on leave for over five weeks, two weeks more than his allowed holiday time.
University of Manchester Students’ Union Diversity Officer Saad Wahid applied for three weeks of leave at the end of January to visit his family in Pakistan, but at the time of going to print had gone over that time by two weeks.
Each elected officer is allowed 30 days paid leave a year. Mr Wahid has currently recorded 46 days of holiday time.
When contacted on Facebook Mr Wahid said, “I am on leave and in Pakistan to visit my family as I have been away for a year now. I will be back in early March.
“I have gone over by 2 weeks. I am not getting paid for this and I did not anticipate this delay which is due to visa processing.”
Mr Wahid, an international student from Pakistan, has not been able to return to the country after handing over his passport to the British High Commission in Pakistan in an effort to obtain a visa for his entire family to live in Britain.
General Secretary of the Students’ Union Nick Pringle told The Mancunion, “At the end of the three weeks leave, Saad was unable to return to the country because he wasn’t in possession of his passport because he had sent it away to obtain a visa for his entire family to return to the UK.”
Mr Wahid said he did not anticipate the visa application process taking so long.
“It is something I could not avoid,” he said. “I didn’t realise that it would take such a long time for the visa to be processed and now I am stuck.
“I never intended to apply for this category of visa from outside of UK ,and not take any additional leave to which I was not entitled to, however on 13th Dec 2012 visa rules were suddenly changed by [the UK Border Agency] restricting International students only to apply for visa from their respective countries rather than from inside the UK.”
“It is stated by UKBA that the outcome of the visa should be announced within 15 working days.
“My new visa application along with my family member’s application was filed in a few days immediately when I arrived in Karachi i.e. 29th January 2013 and to date I await my passport to return from the British High Commission and therefore am unable to travel in the meantime.”
Mr Pringle added, “Given that Saad is not here, therefore he is on leave and he is over his allocation, that leave will be unpaid.
“All officers are entitled to 30 days leave and anything over that is unpaid.”
As an elected member of the Exec Team, Mr Wahid is also a trustee of the Students’ Union and sits on the Trustee Board, which oversees the finances, operations, services, and strategy of the Union. They are therefore partly responsible for 80 permanent staff and 250 student.
The position of Diversity Officer is new this year and its responsibilities include “promote and campaign for equal opportunities within the University, Union and wider community,” and “campaign to increase the diversity of the student body,” according to the Students’ Union website. Like all Exec Team roles, the Diversity Officer is contracted to work 35 hours a week and paid a yearly salary of £16,600.
In response to Mr Wahid’s absence, the Students’ Union have not put any information on the website and did not make a statement to let students know he was away for an extended period of time. Mr Pringle defended this.
“As an organisation I don’t think we should have a policy that every time an officer takes a holiday we have to inform everyone about it, because I think that is a bit over the top,” he said.
“We all take leave from time to time. If students would like us to start tweeting when we are on holiday, we can think about that.”
He added that the fact Mr Wahid is a parent and an international student should be taken into account when assessing his situation.
“There certainly are some mitigating factors in terms of Saad’s status as a parent – he has a family in Pakistan,” he said. “As an employer we have to take into account that people have family lives and have a right to see their kids.
“Also, because he is not a UK student, going home to see family is a lot different to when you or I go home to see our family.
“So something that we have to take into consideration is the fact that he is in Pakistan and he is dealing with visa restrictions that we wouldn’t have to.”
Mr Wahid is also running for General Secretary of the Students’ Union in this year’s elections, voting for which takes place from the 8th to the 14th March.
When asked how Saad’s work, outside of his regular duties such as reporting to union assemblies, was suffering while he was away, Pringle said:
“Although we try and keep up to date with what everyone is doing and I try my best to know what everyone is working on, it is quite hard when they are not in the office to know. Because he has been on leave he would not be expected to do any work from Pakistan.”
When asked how to Exec Team were coping without Saad, Pringle said: “Anything that is exec business or trustee business that would be shared with no individual responsibility, we are still doing all that work between us.”
Election Hustings began last week, with separate debates for each position where students have the opportunity to ask candidates questions. The event for General Secretary is scheduled for this Thursday 7th March, between 6-8pm, on the 1st floor of the Students’ Union.