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Sabbs Block Student Staff Protections

May 02 2007 15:54
A paper designed to protect student staff was opposed by the President and Deputy President (Education and Welfare) at Monday night's council.
John Collins presents the governance review, where staff protections will eventually go through

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.

It seems that legal wrangles related to HR law are yet again interfering with the democratic process, while student staff are yet again left in limbo, as they were with the bar restructuring.

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Discussion about “Sabbs Block Student Staff Protections”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
1. Me   
May 02 2007 16:58

Ummm... As an ex-student/ steward/ bar staff/ reception staff/ dj/ shop worker/ catering staff/ nightbus staff/ cashier etc etc (I covered most departments at some point) who regularly worked over 20 hours per week it would have annoyed me if I had been prevented from doing so by someone.

During the third term getting staff was very difficult at times due to exams so some people would work very long hours when they had no exams and short or no hours when they had exams. Is that not the best policy for the union and for the students.

If students are supposed to be adults they should be able to arrange their work/ study themselves.

Oh, and I graduated with a 2.1 and debt free!

May 02 2007 18:42

This is the most speculative and overdramatic article i've read on live all academic year

3. ...   
May 02 2007 22:10

I used to regularly work over 20 hours per week for the union. It didn't affect my studies - I got a first

4. Hum   
May 02 2007 23:17

Have to agree with Me and ..., worked many more than 20 hours in the union (a couple of times got up to 45-60 hours) and got a 2.1 with no debt, seems stupid to me, people at Imperial should know how to find a balance between uni work and paid work.

5. pg   
May 02 2007 23:24

Just an observation - 45-60 hours would be well over the European Working Time directive...

I believe College have also said they object to students working more than 20 hours, but don't believe I've ever seen a document to that effect. The advice from my department was always "don't work, you'll fail", which I think translated to "don't work too much during term, you'll not get a first".

6. Me   
May 03 2007 09:10

It is easy to get up to 45-60 hours in Freshers week, I suspect many of us got there. It may be over the European Working Time directive but a) the directive only comes into play if it is over a prolonged period of time (I think 6 weeks but could be wrong - its a long time since I studied it!) and b) people can contract out of it (in the UK).

My (now) husband also worked long hours in the union and came out with a 1st.

May 03 2007 09:10


As an ex-student/steward/barperson/activity centre worker/yawn I can tell you that I certainly didn't get a first, nor graduate debt free.

Of course that's more to do with a raging alcohol addiction, waking up in other people's beds and having a generally excellent time than working more than 20 hours a week for the union (which I can prove I did because I still have my pay slips).

8. Hmm.   
May 03 2007 09:15

Regarding student staff being able to work and go to meetings, it didn't look like the sabbs were blocking the suggestions in the paper, so much as saying those were the rules already and it was not a question of needing new rules but of enforcing the current ones.

9. jess   
May 03 2007 10:09

As you all know I worked far more than 20 hours a week in the union while I was there. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to complete my masters without getting yet ANOTHER job, as it's harder to get funding for taught postgraduate degrees and for the first six months I was living entirely off my wages from the union and nothing else - not even an overdraft.

If someone had told me I could only work 20 hours a week (effectively limiting me to about ?100 a week take-home), I would have gone under pretty damned fast.

I think it's sensible to advise the students on how much they should be working, but preventing them from doing more when they really need to (and we all know how difficult it can be to get by in London) seems like forcing them to work elsewhere, where their managers might not be so understanding about their need for time off to study for exams etc.

May 03 2007 10:17

There is already a rule stating that all students are allowed to attend open meetings. There is not a rule saying that they must be allowed to keep their jobs if they attend a meeting, which is being suggested. They are not the same thing and fall under two separate arms of the union...

Retail committee would've handled this thing in the past, but it was never quorate and got abolished. Unfortunately the "trading forum" which replaced it hasn't been organised so far: the first one is this evening at 7pm.

Students - the people the union exists for - appear to have lost all control of commercial services.

May 03 2007 15:21

you'd have thought the sabbs would have talked to each other before a paper like this came to council and would have agreed which committee it was best considered by.

Teamwork seems to be such an outmoded concept these days...

12. gfdsa   
May 03 2007 15:41

Or was this another case of a flip-flop somewhere, or perhaps the sabbs just disagreed with each other about the best way of dealing with things?

May 03 2007 16:48

There seems to me there's been a disagreement as to whether the student-staff-at-meetings issue should be dealt with in public or behind closed doors.

I don't believe there's been a satifactory outcome to that issue as yet.

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