An Epigram investigation has uncovered allegations of poor working conditions at the University of Bristol. Here, a retail assistant at one of the University’s catering outlets speaks to Epigram about these allegations.
F has been working as a retail assistant in one of the University of Bristol’s catering outlets for about four months now and ultimately believes that the University’s senior management ‘does not care’ about its workers.
Epigram met with F, who wishes to keep her identity anonymous, to discuss the poor working conditions experienced by non-academic staff members at the university.
‘The university is not a good employer,’ she begins, explaining that she was not given an induction when she started work, and that she has not since been provided with adequate footwear to keep her safe in the workplace.
F believes that the University’s senior management ‘does not care’ about its workers
F says that she is not given the 20 minute break to which she is legally entitled, given that she works a 7.5 hour shift. Instead, she is told to leave half an hour early; the law states that this does does not count as a rest break. It also worth noting that, unlike the striking lecturers, F has no pension.
Furthermore, F claims that she has been personally ‘bullied’ by her managers. ‘They don’t speak to me well’, she adds, citing a number of examples. She mentions a time when her assistant manager sent out a version of the rota that was incorrect. When F arrived at work at the time specified, her assistant manager blamed for the mistake and shouted at her.
She stresses that she is aware of many others that have had similar experiences. There is apparently no way of formally addressing these problems, but F told Epigram she has looked into joining a union.
F argues that conditions are worse for the agency staff who work alongside her at the University’s many catering outlets. One of her colleagues says ‘that they were working 12 hours without a break’. Employed by third parties on the behalf of the university, these staff members are generally on zero hours contracts and earn the minimum wage for the first three months of work. F believes that the university uses agency workers ‘to save money’, at the expense of staff welfare.
Feeding the less fortunate & homeless people in -4°c tonight! Christ church opened to shelter those from the storm! And we feed them all! Food waste stopped and people fed! Amazing work team 💚 well done to those involved! pic.twitter.com/O9quJkfKYm— Dom's FOOD mission (@domsfoodmission) March 1, 2018
Equally troubling for F is the fact that the university’s catering outlets ‘waste a lot of food’. She accepts that homelessness charities and the like cannot accept out of date food, but points out that other products, such as fresh soup, are thrown away every day, despite being completely edible. F thinks this is particularly concerning, given the University’s commitment to sustainable, environmentally friendly practice.
In response to these allegations, a University spokesperson said: 'The health and wellbeing of our staff is paramount. We pride ourselves on being good employers, creating a rewarding and comfortable place of work for all and where every employee feels valued, supported and respected.
'As this account has been submitted anonymously, we’re unable to investigate or respond to the specific claims made. We would strongly urge employees with grievances which have proved unresolved by their line manager to register a formal complaint which will be investigated and resolved formally in line with the University’s official policy.'
'Sustainability is core to the University’s ethos and all residential and hospitality staff receive training to support them in upholding the University’s food policy. Waste is limited where possible, while also adhering to food hygiene and safety guidelines.'
Featured image Epigram / Alex Boulton