22 Union bar staff, many of whom are students at Imperial College, were dismissed from their roles as casual workers following an incident the Union deemed to be gross misconduct.
Staff members who were also students have been banned from Union bar premises for between three and six months.
The Union considered each case individually under the employees’ roles as staff and students separately. Employees who had either already graduated, or who were working in the bar via third party agencies, did not undergo investigation with regards to their membership of the Union.
Felix understands that some of those investigated who were students received a three month ban from bar premises, though the majority were given six month bans.
All involved were dismissed from their roles as casual workers or were not hired back from the agencies they worked for. Most were dismissed on November 29th.
Some of those involved were managers at the 568 bar.
After talking to multiple sources involved in the incident and following proceedings, Felix understands that the incident in question occurred on the night of the 7th November. During a leaving drinks event for an ex-staff member one attendee suggested that everyone present should go onto the roof of the Union building via a secret route that they had been aware of for some time, but that Union management were unaware of.
This route to the roof has been described as precarious by both the staff involved. The Union leadership said “accessing the roof required a series of extremely dangerous manoeuvres”. Access involved climbing over a stairwell which anyone involved could have fallen from and significantly injured themselves.
The roof was accessed through a window with a broken restrictor, which meant it could be opened fully and a person could fit through. This window has since been sealed shut and cannot be opened at all.
On the roof there are no safety measures, such as barricades, in place. The structural integrity of the roof under the weight of this many people was also called into question. A fall from such a height could have had “life altering consequences”.
The incident came to the Union’s attention as a result of a separate complaint over alleged racism in a WhatsApp chat which bar staff members used to discuss work-related topics. Part of the evidence submitted in this complaint included images of the individuals in question on the roof of the Union building.
Casual workers at the Union bars, including those in managerial positions, are not full employees. They are employed by the College on casual, or “zero hour”, contracts, and are able to sign up to shifts as and when they see fit, though permanent staff may encourage casual workers to take up more shifts in certain circumstances. Because of this casual worker status the decision to remove those involved from their jobs is considerably easier than if they were full employees. It is worth noting, however, that the Union chose to follow a full process under ACAS guidelines as if those involved were employees. This is significantly more than was legally required.
In the investigation of the student employees surrounding their membership of the Union, the investigating officer was Union President Dr Lloyd James. The final decision was reached by a panel formed from the Governance and Membership committee within the Union.
James recently brought a paper to the Governance and Membership Committee which added amendments to the existing disciplinary procedure held by the Union. These amendments included that the role of Investigating Officer in all cases relating to a student’s membership of the Union should fall to the Union President, with the option for the President to delegate this role if they see fit.
Referring to the incident, Dr James said “We can confirm that following a thorough and impartial investigation over the last few weeks, a number of casual staff members will no longer be taking shifts in our bars. We cannot comment further due to confidentiality requirements.”
He added “As soon as the Union became aware of a potential health and safety risk, it was investigated and resolved rapidly”.