Edinburgh Law School staff accuse uni of ‘penny-pinching’ after removing free teabags

Despite the uni’s £113 million surplus last year, the notice blamed ‘the new financial circumstances we find ourselves in’

The University of Edinburgh has been accused by staff of “penny-pinching” after removing free teabags and coffee from the Law School’s communal staff kitchen areas.

The notice read: “The University Finance Department has confirmed to schools that additional extras such as tea and coffee will no longer be available due to the new financial circumstances we find ourselves in”.

This is despite the uni’s £113 million surplus during the last academic year and a spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh insisting: “The University has not made any unilateral changes to our staff kitchens”.

It was found by Dr Andy Aydin-Aitchison, a senior criminology lecturer, who told The Edinburgh Tab: “When you put this petty, penny-pinching decision alongside the fact that we have a leadership team who think savings by cuts to staff pensions should be celebrated as “fantastic news“, it shows university management, structures and decisions that don’t value the staff who make the university what it is.”

Staff were left furious when notices were placed around kitchens this week. (Image: Dr Andy Aydın-Aitchison)

Uni employees will now have to purchase their own provision if required. Each School will have a limited amount of tea points, once they run out the university will not replenish them.

The notice has been there for 18 months, but Aydin-Aitchison said it felt like now was an appropriate time to share the image during the strikes as it “captured management attitudes to staff.”

He said: “It seems really trivial – taking away the tea bags, or the instant coffee.”, adding: “It shows university management, structures and decisions that don’t value the staff who make the university what it is – the academics, including PhD students, researching and teaching, the professional teams keeping things going in schools, libraries, archives and computing services, the servitors, the cleaners and other staff looking after our buildings.”

The news follows revelations that the uni’s Vice-Principal Gavin McLachlan described cuts to pension contributions as “fantastic news” when giving reasons as to why the uni had a “larger than expected surplus” last year.

On this, Aitchison said: “For staff it’s clear that the university is far more interested in producing a surplus than they are in their staff and students”. He finished off by calling the universities attitudes to pay, pensions, and fees, “naked exploitation”.

The Edinburgh Tab also reached out to the Edinburgh UCU who said it was a “punitive decision to strip the shelves of staff break rooms”.

However, they wanted to stress that: “The lie that University management is pushing about the need for austerity measures on teabags comes at the same time as they’ve rejected UCU pension proposals that the USS pension fund’s trustees confirmed as workable.”

“The University of Edinburgh reported a surplus of £113 million last year, so this narrative about ‘new financial circumstances’ is not only unsubstantial but also encapsulates a broader pattern of manipulative behaviour. After university management’s rejection of UCU’s offer, on Monday morning staff stand to lose not only tea and coffee but 30% of their pensions.”

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