In a bizarre sequence of events at Council on Monday night, both the President and Deputy President (Education and Welfare) spoke against a paper designed to protect the interests of student casual staff. The paper, brought by Deputy President (Finance and Services) Jon Matthews, sought to formalise the unwritten rule that student staff can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week and also protect their right to attend open meetings without fear of losing their jobs.
It has been practice for some time now that students are prevented from working more than 20 hours per week so that their studies are not adversely affected by their jobs. This limit is also in line with the legal requirement that overseas students must not work more than 20 hours per week during term time. The paper was to bring this in as a formal policy, with Mr Matthews indicating that Home and EU students were often working more than 20 hours.
The President spoke against the paper, saying that protections for student staff should be set at a higher level than just policy, preferring to include it in the constitution with the next phase of the governance review. Doing this means it will need to be passed by 2/3rds majority at two successive Council meetings and then by the College Council meeting in July. If Monday's Council was anything to go by, this may prove difficult as exams seem to be making it hard to gain quorum, particularly as certain officers fail to turn up on a regular basis. Passing it in policy would have immediately given student staff three years of protection with a simple majority.
More surprisingly was Deputy President (Education and Welfare) Ben Harris' opposition to the paper. Whilst praising the principle of limiting the hours of student staff he felt it was something that College should do, not the Union. It is unclear how much more sovereignty Mr Harris believes the Union should hand over to College, particularly given rumours from Beit Towers that they are no longer playing nicely.
Mr Matthews, not known for keeping quiet in meetings, looked decidedly disappointed with the attitude displayed by his colleagues and remained almost entirely silent as his colleagues undermined the paper. A tirade launched by the DPEW seemed to particularly trouble him, calling the policy 'reactionary' and likening it to hastily introduced anti-terror laws.
With both parts of the paper attacked by Sabbs, Mr Matthews was asked if he was happy with it being withdrawn and the issues considered in other meetings. He failed to respond to this and looked far from happy but this was taken as being consent.
Response from the President
Following the meeting the Live! Editor contacted ICU President John Collins for more information - during the meeting both he and the DPEW had indicated that they were happy the issue with student staff at meetings would be resolved. Mr Collins refused to divulge any information, once again using HR law as his reason. Indeed, when pushed further he was unable to give any assurance that student staff were free to go to meetings, saying "you won't get anything out of me when HR law is involved". Live! was expecting the matter to be resolved by the President going "don't do that", but apparently it is not that simple.