Sugarhouse staff claim they were ‘last to find out’ about loss of jobs

‘We are not valued as student staff and are constantly treated as an afterthought’

Following LUSU deciding to close The Sugarhouse doors last week, due to coronavirus measures and a loss of revenue, they have now announced that The Sugarhouse will remain closed until September 2021.

Sugarhouse staff claim they had not been given any proportion warning of the closure, alleging that many members of staff found out they had lost their jobs through social media.

A PhD candidate at Lancaster University, who was a staff member at Sugarhouse, tweeted: “Just wondering when [LUSU] were planning to let the staff know they no longer have jobs at The Sugarhouse until at least (maybe) Sept 2021?”

The student continued: “It’s just another example of how the staff are treated at as worthless and disposable. Last week given next to no notice (literally) to not come in and last year threats to sell the venue without telling us either.”

Another Sugarhouse staff member, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated: “Yet again, no considerations were given to staff.”

Another staff member, also wishing to stay anonymous, was appalled by the union “continuously treating staff as disposable”, after finding out that they had lost their job through the Facebook page Overheard at Lancaster: “When they decided to shut, the managers tried to let us know but LUSU made them delete the post almost straight away. The official post and email were sent so late in the day when people were supposed to be at work. The email was actually sent eight minutes after the earliest people were due to start.

“It’s against the hiring policy to let people know that late. We have received an email saying there’s no update for us, yet LUSU have posted today that sugar is not opening until 2021. That’s a full year without employment that staff members have lost and they haven’t even had the decency to tell us face to face.”

Another staff member has disclosed that the staff frustrations towards LUSU started developing fully last year during the attempt to sell off The Sugarhouse. They told The Lancaster Tab: “We were given absolutely no information for long periods of time, yet when we finally did, it was the most blasé, useless information you could imagine. Random Facebook pages were more informative. I panicked and applied for multiple jobs, so that I could get by if Sugarhouse shut.

“Consequently, this added mountains of stress and dragged down my university grade. We, as staff, would much rather know the unpleasant truth, than have to guess for ourselves. We continuously emailed LUSU, yet would receive a useless copy and paste message reply. The managers were amazing and tried to support us, yet LUSU would strive to make sure they couldn’t. Nobody knows why.”

Another Sugarhouse staff member stated: “Last week, when they announced they were temporarily closing, Sugar staff found out an hour before we were due to go into work that we were no longer required.

“Like all students, our financial situations are becoming more precarious because of COVID-19 and to find out through media, at the same time as the entire student body, that we won’t have employment until September 2021, really sucks.

“Personally, I feel that we are not valued as student staff and are constantly treated as an afterthought. Alongside academic stress and general concerns about the pandemic, I now have to worry about my financial situation, which I didn’t anticipate when I renewed my contract at the start of term.”

Loyal Sugarhouse staff, some of whom have been working there for three years or more, have been “given no support from the union in this difficult time”, stated a Sugarhouse staff member: “They get away with it as we are on zero hour temporary contracts, so we have very little employment rights, but we are angry and wont stand for it anymore.”

Then finally, another staff member told The Lancaster Tab that they found out about The Sugarhouse closing through “the LUSU article with no forewarning beforehand.” They continued to state: “A lot of us had second jobs that we had to quit to go back to work at Sugar so some of us have gone from two jobs to none in less than a month which especially in the current times is awful.

“A Students’ Union should be campaigning for the rights of University Students, and dedicating itself to being transparent. Yet on this occasion, leaving staff members worrying about whether they still have jobs or not, this has not been the case.”

A Students’ Union spokesperson told us: “The Students’ Union emphatically does not see its student staff as disposable. We’re sorry that we had to take the decision to close the venue, and whilst we want to ensure that it opens at the first opportunity, we don’t anticipate that being before October 2021.

“Whilst all student staff were notified that there were no further employment opportunities available, we understand that there may not have been sufficient time between that email landing and the communications going out. We apologise unreservedly to all staff who found out on social media before being told directly.

“We are minimising the financial impact on student staff by making use of the government furlough scheme wherever possible. Whilst we did everything we could to try and re-open, current regulations and lack of uptake meant that the SU was losing money, and given our difficult financial position, we struggle to justify that to ourselves.

“The Sugarhouse is here to stay and to ensure that it will provide employment and recreation in the future, we had to take action now.”

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