Anger over £50 ‘thank you’ bonuses for non-striking staff

SELECTIVE bonuses for non-striking staff have caused confusion amongst University employees. The strike in question, which took place over Fresher’s Weekend last year from 19th-22nd September, was in protest at the cut in pensions for University support workers. The closure of AUPAS, the final salary pension plan, meant a 50% or higher cut in pensions for employees at the lower end of the pay scale, such as security guards, administration staff, and library assistants. The university council decided to close the university pension scheme in June 2014.

Aberystwyth University Old College Photo - Tomos Nolan

Aberystwyth University Old College
Photo – Tomos Nolan

The unions involved in the Fresher’s Weekend strike included UNISON, Unite, University and College Union, and Prospect. Simon Dunn, the UNISON regional organizer for the strike, said at the time, “All we want is a fair system, where half of the staff aren’t treated like second class citizens.” Although the majority of union members agreed to strike, some staff still worked over Fresher’s Weekend and have each been rewarded with a £50 bonus. They received confirmation along with a thank you letter from deputy director of the Human Resources department, Heather Hinkin, promising the bonus payment along with April’s pay. Those who took part in the industrial action consider these ‘thank you’ bonuses unfair.

Roger Bevan, the UNISON union area organizer for Wales, has condemned the University’s actions as insensitive, stating that “Our members are rightly incensed. It is never an easy decision to take industrial action, and we only did so after trying to convince the university that this was not necessary.” Mr Bevan has met with other trade unions representatives to discuss the matter, and has called for the withdrawal of the bonuses. He considers selective rewards for non-striking staff as an incitement by the university for staff not to participate in their unions’ activities. He and other trade union representatives will seek advice from a solicitor.

The university has not replied to Mr Bevan, but a spokesman has stated, “This ‘thank you’ was for staff who worked on this crucial weekend and we recognise their contribution. We wish to thank staff who contributed to our Freshers’ Weekend activities and often acknowledge team contributions like this via a range of recognition processes.”