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University bosses accused of leaving hundreds of laid-off staff in poverty

Sheffield University and Queen Mary University of London under fire for leaving workers penniless

BOSSES at two universities have been accused of leaving hundreds of staff in poverty because they are laid off during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Unite union has accused Sheffield University Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts of “turning his back” on 700 campus workers by abandoning them to survive on just £6.16 an hour – less than the statutory minimum wage.

And at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), the students’ union says management has refused to “furlough” 300 staff who have been laid off, leaving them penniless.

The staff at both universities are mainly students who take on jobs to fund themselves through university.

Unite says that most of the Sheffield staff are being paid 80 per cent of their zero-hours-contract wages through the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

Regional officer Harriet Eisner said management refused to meet the union.

She said: “This is an ill-judged decision which is going to affect the reputation of the university.

"We urge him (the vice-chancellor) to think again and engage with the union which has the workers' best interests at heart during the current health crisis.”

At QMUL the 300 students employed as staff on zero-hours contracts are facing poverty, according to Joe Vinson, of Queen Mary Students’ Union (QMSU).

The university’s refusal to “furlough” staff employed in shops, bars, cafes and gyms, has denied them even 80 per cent of their wages.

“They have been abandoned by their university and are in serious financial difficulty,” said Mr Vinson.

General union GMB is supporting the QMSU campaign.

Sheffield University said: “The university is committed to working collaboratively to minimise the impact of the pandemic on all our communities.”

QMUL said it was “working closely with our Students’ Union to help them address their immediate financial challenges.”

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