Campaign to ‘Save Student Jobs’ Attracts Media Attention Ahead of Referendum

Campaigner with a copy of the 'Irish News' which ran a story on the referendum Photo: Tyler McNally

With less than a week to go until Queen’s students have the opportunity to vote as part of a referendum on the outsourcing of Union security jobs to private firm G4S, the campaign behind the referendum is garnering considerable media attention – not just on a university level, but nationally.

Current students Gary Spedding, Aisling Gallagher and Seanín Ní Connalláin have contributed coverage to The Huffington Post, the website of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and blog respectively. Additionally, the campaign has been featured by news site 4ni.co.uk.

This evening, the 'Save Student Jobs' campaign urging students to vote ‘yes’ in Thursday’s referendum stepped up their efforts as spokesperson – and current Queen’s student and QUBSU employee – Bobby Kane appeared on BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Evening Extra’ show to talk with presenter Seamus McKee about the planned outsourcing of jobs.

A full, written transcript of the interview is now available below:

McKee: The Union is said to contract out eighteen event security jobs currently filled by students and graduates to the security company G4S. Now it says the current staff will be offered the same jobs with them, but some of the staff aren’t happy. I’ve been speaking to one of the students affected, Bobby Kane, and he told me why he wanted to work as an employee of the Union.

Kane: The work has been important, mainly because personally, the Union is important to me, not just the job itself, but the Union itself. I’ve worked in every aspect of the Union, and I’ve been involved heavily since day one, since I joined Queen’s. Personally myself, yes it’s a pay check at the end of the week, but on top of that I look after it on a personal basis. I want the people coming into the building to feel safe. I want them to see a friendly face. I see them in class. I see them in the street. I see them in the shop. So whenever they’re coming in to have a sociable drink at night time, they’ll feel safe in the fact that I’m one of their peers. And I’m someone they see on a day to day basis – not just as a security supervisor.

McKee: How do you fit this in with lectures and study?

Kane: It’s quite easy to fit in. Queen’s will work it around what I need to do. We currently have eighteen security members, and between the eighteen of us we can cover all events. Where we can’t manage to cover all numbers, we call upon G4S to give us the extra numbers. But it is always a priority that we’re given hours first. And then if we can’t all hours due to other… basically if we have class or assignments, G4S give us a hand to fill in the numbers.

McKee: If the work is important to you, why wouldn’t you take up a job with G4S?

Kane: Personally, as I said before, I want to work for the Union.

McKee: But you’d be working in the Union.

Kane: But I wouldn’t be working for my Student’s Union. I’d be working for G4S, they way G4S would be hired in for an external event. I wouldn’t have direct contact with the management –

McKee: You mean elsewhere, not just the Union. You could be working anywhere?

Kane: I could be working anywhere at all. We have been offered a zero hour contract. Basically that would mean that, they have said that we would have the hours in the Student’s Union, but outside of that, we may be able to achieve

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hours elsewhere. However, there are no assurances there.

McKee: What’s the problem with a zero hour contract? What does that mean?

Kane: A zero hour contract just means that there are no assurances there for us to be given hours. To me personally –

McKee: Well you could get no hours, you could get lots of hours.

Kane: Exactly. But at the same time, they are actively seeking more members. If we join a global company, we’re then just eighteen people in a massive pool of people.

McKee: Well they say, G4S, that there’ll be flexible working to allow for changes in security demand owing to holiday and term time events. They will also allow students employed by G4S flexibility to work around term time, academic and holiday commitments.

Kane: At no stage in there does it say that they will definitely give us hours.

McKee: They say the same number of people will be required to fill the duties, working the same number of hours.

Kane: There’s nothing legally binding to say that we will be offered those hours, and we will definitely be given the same amount of hours.

McKee: If you were to get such a contract, along the lines that I’ve just read, would you join them?

Kane: I still wouldn’t join them. As I said before, I want to work directly for my Student’s Union. I don’t understand why, as a Student’s Union, they’re looking to outsource. Yes, they’re still looking for the same students to work there, but it would be an external company. They are outsourcing. In my opinion, we have been doing the job very, very efficiently for as long as I’ve been there, for the last four years.

McKee: But the Union’s within its rights to give this to someone else to do.

Kane: The Union is within its rights to outsource, and yes, in the past we have seen benefit coming from outsourcing. We have outsourced food to Kylemore, we have seen banks come in, we have seen Clements come in and sell coffee. But that is another matter, where these people are coming in and paying us to be there. We are going to pay G4S to be here. And therefore we’re going to pay a company to be here. I don’t understand what it is that they think the benefits to be.

McKee: How do you see this being resolved?

Kane: This being resolved – basically, as a Student’s Union, in my eyes, I believe it goes to the students. We are putting it to a referendum, next Thursday, the 9th of May. If the students want G4S working and running the security in their Student’s Union, then that is their day to decide that they want that.

McKee: Bobby Kane. Queen’s Union gave us a statement in which they said the decision would provide an enhanced and more efficient security service, and that the new contract would be on the same terms and conditions as students are currently employed under, and would provide additional working hours if students wished to avail of them.

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