SRC scraps controversial minibus service

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minibuses

Alastair Thomas

Glasgow University’s Student Representative Council (SRC) has terminated its minibus service with immediate effect, according to an email obtained by The Glasgow Guardian. As of publication, the SRC has not yet informed students of the termination of the minibus service, but has removed the service’s information page from its website.

The leaked email, which was sent to the minibus drivers, explains that the decision was made after a review by a panel comprising the deputy secretary of Court, an SRC representative and a member of the University accommodation services.

The review recommended that “the minibus service should be discontinued over the medium term with the expectation that, from 2016/17, the service is run in managed decline”. However, the SRC has already notified the drivers that the service has been discontinued “forthwith”.

According to the review, the service was untenable due to the “limited nature of the service”, as well as reduced funding due to “the demise of Glasgow Student Village”. The email also blames the University’s accommodation services for “no longer being invested” in the minibus service.

The Glasgow Guardian asked Ameer Ibrahim, president of the SRC, for a comment on the decision. He was also asked if he blamed the University’s accommodation services for their alleged lack of investment. Ibrahim declined to comment, and instead forwarded a statement made to Council by his predecessor, Liam King:

“The Exec met to consider the recommendations and the future of the service [and] were faced with an extremely complex and difficult choice[.] however we decided that: due to an even bleaker financial envelope than had originally been anticipated: a lack of University buy-in: and the already known future challenges or regulatory change and cost pressures that were eroding this economies in the service: rather than run a severely diminished service of negligible impact and let it suffer death by a thousand cuts it was best to end the service forthwith.”

King also reassured Council that the drivers would receive an “ex gratia payment that reflects their length of service” as an acknowledgement of their contribution.

The term-time minibus service, which was originally introduced to help students travel safely between campus and student halls, had faced criticism over the last year for the controversial “contractor’s agreements” used for its drivers. The contractor’s agreements meant that the minibus drivers were considered self-employed “contractors” rather than employees of the SRC. As a result, the drivers were not afforded the rights or protections of employees.

However, in an independent review commissioned by the SRC last year, the service was cleared of misconduct, with the report highlighting the “mutual benefit” of the contract for both the SRC and the drivers. The review also warned of the financial problems involved in moving the drivers onto employment contracts.

Elliot Napier, former trustee of the SRC, Council member, and minibus driver, told The Glasgow Guardian: “The decision, taken against the will of SRC council and the recommendation of an independent review, to cut the service immediately is disappointing for everyone concerned – the inferior option now being offered to Wolfson residents could have been avoided and the blow to other halls’ residents and drivers could have been softened with a service reduction until the financial outlook improves.

He continued: “Once again, services for current students come second to the University’s desire to save cash to pay for future expansion: the University has failed to stump up the money the SRC needs to run the service properly (whilst continuing to boast of it in both current prospectuses).”