Several former Ram employees have come forward to express their anger and frustration at the alleged mismanagement of the University’s on-campus pub since it was transferred from Guild ownership in Autumn 2020.
Talking to Exeposé, several former employees presented a series of damning allegations that ranged from poor hygiene to replacement of student staff with adult employees.
One former student staff member, claimed “roughly 30 members of student staff got fired without being notified” when the University took over the bar despite being “reassured that we would not lose our jobs” in the transfer. Another former employee stated they were removed from the work app without even being formally notified: “I was a loyal and hardworking member of staff. They didn’t even have the decency to tell me I had been let go.”
I was a loyal and hardworking member of staff. They didn’t even have the decency to tell me I had been let go.”
Following these firings, those student staff were allegedly replaced by “inexperienced adult” staff from other University outlets such as Reed Hall, which also led to reduced working hours for remaining student staff. According to one source, one adult staff member was so inexperienced that they didn’t even know what a jaeger bomb was or how to make one. “The Ram used to be a student bar for students, run by students. Quite frankly it is now a student bar run by a bunch of out-of-touch, unqualified middle-aged white men” stated the source.
The change in staffing also allegedly led to an uncomfortable working environment. “We used to wear black tops which were replaced by white ones saying ‘Isca eats’ on the front. Many of the female staff felt uncomfortable as the material was see through, and if anything was accidentally spilt on our clothing, as it does in a bar, everyone could see through it” one former female staffer stated. However, when the individual source approached their supervisors with their concerns they were told to “suck it up” and stop being “dramatic girls”.
LGBTQIA+ staff were also allegedly made to feel uncomfortable in this new working environment. “When the ram was owned by the Guild, we had a very diverse group of colleagues and managers and the ram was a safe work environment. However, once the University took over, we had to spend our shifts with middle-aged white men who made us feel uncomfortable and who wouldn’t even say the words ‘gay’ or ‘LGBT’”. Senior staff were allegedly prone to sexist comments or attitudes. Several sources made note that a senior staff member dismissed LGBTQIA+ representation in training sessions, and skipped over LGBT+ equality policy in the workplace. Furthermore, numerous staff attested that senior staff made sexist and homophobic comments throughout their employment, often undermining their capacity to carry out heavy labour tasks. However, one source wanted to make clear that these comments were often made by senior staff members, and that “a large proportion of the new University staff were very inclusive and kind to LGBTQIA+ student staff members”.
Former employees also criticised the decline in hygiene and failure to follow COVID-19 safety regulations under University management, with several sources stating The Ram was forced to shut on four different occasions due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Under new COVID-19 guidance, staff were expected to social distance behind the bar, deep clean surfaces every thirty minutes and wear masks at all times. These rules allegedly were ignored. As one former employee stated “I genuinely can’t recall a time I saw kitchen staff with masks on in the roughly six to nine months I was there.” Numerous sources also allege that staff handled food with their hands rather than with tongs, and one even stated that kitchen staff would snack on the food while they were on shift.
I genuinely can’t recall a time I saw kitchen staff with masks on in the roughly six to nine months I was there.”
The pandemic has allegedly had major impacts on student employees, with sources claiming the University did not pay “casual” non-contracted student staff furlough for the second and third lockdown, despite having received furlough from the Guild during the first lockdown. “This was completely shocking and stressful for myself and a number of my colleagues as we worked at The Ram purely to fund our academic studies” stated a former employee.
A University of Exeter spokesperson said: “We do not recognise this version of events. The University of Exeter did not fire any member of staff. At no time during the University of Exeter tenure has the venue had to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak and the team followed COVID-19 measures at all times. Due to national restrictions, The Ram was closed from early November until early April and when it reopened the shifts were posted openly and either accepted or declined by individual workers.
“The Ram management and culinary team are highly qualified and have continual refresher-training. The Ram has a 5* Food Standards Agency ‘Scores on the Doors’ EHO rating (2021) and the Service Food Safety Management Plan is internally and externally verified and tested.
“On recruitment and furlough, the human resources guidance has been applied correctly at all times. Casual workers are engaged to meet fluctuating demands, and no guarantee of work is therefore given to casual workers until work can be assigned based on business requirements. Where work had not been assigned casual workers could not be furloughed and this was applied to all casual workers engaged by the University. We offered support through alternative work options and an ‘Emergency Assistance Fund’”.
If you’ve experienced sexism or homophobia on campus. you can report such problems on the University Speak Out page (http://www.exeter.ac.uk/about/speakout/report/). For further support or advice contact University wellbeing (http://www.exeter.ac.uk/wellbeing) or the Student Guild (http://wexeterguild.org/advice).