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11th March 2016

University to ‘cut catering staff and lower wages’

After implementing the living wage last month, the company in charge of catering services across the university are claimed to be planning to make 43 staff redundant and cutting salaries by up to a third

An email leaked to The Mancunion appears to reveal how University of Manchester Conferences Limited (UMC) plans to make 43 staff redundant and lower wages paid to other staff.

This comes after last month’s implementation by UMC of the living wage for all staff of all ages, following years of campaigning by staff and students.

UMC is a private, wholly-owned subsidiary company of the university that provides catering services across campus and in the University’s Halls of Residence. UMC runs the Chancellors Hotel, The Chancellors Collection, FoodOnCampus, FoodInResidence, and BarsInResidence on behalf of the University.

In the leaked email received by The Mancunion, it was claimed that 60 out of UMC’s 283 staff have been told that their jobs are at risk. The email goes on to say that if less than 43 of these 60 do not accept voluntary severance, then UMC have announced that they plan to go ahead with compulsory redundancies.

Alongside this, UMC are allegedly planning to impose inferior contracts on the remaining staff, cutting salaries by up to a third.

Staff and students campaigned for several years for the living wage to be implemented across UMC and, as of the 1st of February 2016, it was announced that all UMC staff would be paid at least the living wage as set by the Living Wage Foundation, which currently stands at £8.25.

The company had said that the pay increase was just one of their planned actions within catering services, aiming to develop and improve “their financial performance and service quality.”

The new rate is £1.05 per hour more than the government’s National Living Wage, which comes into force in April. The National Living Wage is also only to be paid to people over the age of 25, whereas UMC announced they planned to pay £8.25 regardless of the age of their staff.

At the time of this announcement the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union Living Wage Campaign told The Mancunion that it was “a massive win for fair pay in the work place here at the University of Manchester, as over 300 members of staff will benefit from the change.”

According to our source, the company turned a loss of £114,554 in 2013/14 into a profit of £164,362 in 2014/15. The source suggested that this was why the company decided to join the student and trade union campaign for the living wage.

These claims of redundancies within UMC comes on the back of redundancies and further threats of redundancies to 38 employees and 68 IT staff last year, alongside 28 other staff this year.

Our source expressed concern with the direction the university is taking, especially expressing concern over the treatment of lower paid staff in contrast with those who earn the most at the university.

The Mancunion recently reported that the 103 staff are paid over £100,000 which, according to data obtained by the Taxpayers Alliance, this stands at almost one per cent of the University’s total employees.

The University of Manchester had the 23rd highest number of staff paid above £100,000 in the country.

These concerns are all to be raised with senior management at the university within the coming days. There will also be a meeting organised by the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union to begin a campaign against these job losses on Tuesday the 15th of March at 5.30pm in Room 4 of the Students’ Union.

A University of Manchester spokesperson has confirmed these claims and told The Mancunion that “following a review of catering services the University has opened a voluntary severance scheme for FoodOnCampus and FoodInResidence staff. Consultations have been arranged and support and advice is being made available to all affected staff”.

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