As a Sabbatical Officer team we are extremely concerned by the fact that most of this year’s academic representatives, Departmental Student Coordinators (DSC’s), are still yet to be paid. As University employees they should be afforded the same respect and consideration as any other employee.
DSC’s are crucial at ensuring the student voice is heard loud and clear, and the fact they have not been properly remunerated yet does a disservice to all students. To start their roles in September and still not be paid 5 months into the role is a dereliction of the duty of an employer and nothing short of a scandal. We are certain that if this would have happened to any other group HR and the Warden would have intervened by now.
When the University discussed last summer with the SU that DSCs would be moved from a bursary of £700 a year, paid in three termly installments, to an hourly pay model, we outlined some major concerns and predictions if it were not done properly, that have now unfortunately actualised. They included:
- That this would need to be properly resourced and timed, and any process would need to be streamlined and made accessible to DSCs. As the employer the college has a duty to oversee the process, not the SU.
- That DSC’s should not get less than £700 after tax as a result of this change.
- That moving to an hourly payment model would change the culture and approach of DSCs and needed to be properly thought out. This has effectively changed DSCs from volunteers with bursaries to employees of the institution they are scrutinising. We in fact asked for this decision to be delayed to next year in order to properly put measures in place.
The University, referencing HR advice, insisted on moving forward quickly. We did not feel and still do not feel they have adequately thought through or resourced this change.
We are in a situation now where the majority of DSC’s have not been paid for their work, and are being asked to fill out a lot of paperwork without clear or consistent instructions and guidance. Those who need the money sooner have been sent to apply for the hardship fund where they face a bunch of time consuming forms not relevant to their circumstances. This is not good enough.
This situation has damaged the quality of the DSC project this year, the ability for DSCs to do their job without barriers, and the relationship between DSCs and the institution, including the SU. This is regrettable and was avoidable. It is especially regrettable this has happened in the same year as a global pandemic, when students are already struggling with lossed income.
We therefore support DSC’s who are currently applying pressure to the college on this issue, and would like the college to do three things:
- For a member of senior management or college leadership to attend the upcoming (16/02/21) DSC meeting and speak directly to DSCs about what has happened, why it has happened and what they are doing to fix it.
- For DSC’s to receive a full apology.
- For the college to immediately prioritise and resource (staffing and time wise) a means by which DSCs can be paid as soon as possible and without delay. This might require them going above and beyond the current payment system, especially as this is an exceptional circumstance.
- For the college to commit to an immediate review of what will happen next year, including the option for the SU to be the employer of DSCs and administer the process but only with additional administrative resources.
Sabbatical Officer Team, Goldsmiths Students’ Union