A WORKER who was refused access to the government's furlough scheme by the University of the West of Scotland could be made homeless, the students' union has told the university.

In a letter to principal and vice-chancellor Craig Mahoney, the UWS students' union said it was "alarmed and disappointed" to hear the university had rejected a request to help students, working on zero-hours contracts in a campus cafe, use the coronavirus job retention scheme.

It has joined up with Unite Hospitality and the National Union of Students Scotland to call on the university to reverse its decision.

READ MORE: Students working in campus cafe struggling to pay bills after uni rejects furlough bid

The letter states: "We have heard from students about the enormous distress that this has caused, including one student facing the prospect of being made homeless because they cannot access other sources of income or benefits."

A spokeswoman for the university said national guidance states "where employers receive public funding for staff costs then employers are not expected to furlough their staff". She said students were not without financial support and are encouraged to access the university's hardship funds.

Students, working on the university's Paisley campus to support themselves through their studies, were advised by the government to ask for access to the scheme and were told they're not eligible for Universal Credit.

Two MPs, Mhairi Black and Neil Gray, and Neil Bibby MSP sent letters to Mr Mahoney last week, asking him to resolve the issue.

In the letter from the unions, staff members state they now "distrust" management and have asked for an explanation, adding: "Some of us may find work elsewhere where we feel we are respected and treated correctly during times of utmost need."

A statement from Unite Hospitality adds: "It is inconceivably unfair for the university to refuse to furlough their own student workers particularly when much smaller charities such as the student union has committed to paying 100 per cent."

And NUS Scotland said: "We expect all institutions to show basic compassion and social responsibility at this time. Where institutions employ students they must take all necessary steps to ensure their incomes are protected through this crisis."

A petition demanding the students are furloughed has been set up, with more than 200 people signing by Tuesday afternoon.

The university spokeswoman said: "We have extensively reviewed, and sought advice on, the national guidance regarding furlough.

"It is clear that where employers receive public funding for staff costs then employers are not expected to furlough their staff.

"We appreciate, however, that the situation remains fast-moving and we continue to monitor developments and guidance closely in liaison with trade unions, with whom we are holding twice-weekly meetings."

She added: "We are absolutely not, however, leaving this group – or any other group of students not employed by UWS, whose part time work has been affected by the current crisis – without financial support.

"We have been encouraging students to access our student hardship funds which have already administered support to hundreds of students over the past few weeks.

READ MORE: Mum-of-three 'struggling to put food on the table' as travel firm refuses to help her access furlough scheme

"The vast majority of these funds have been provided to those who have temporarily lost part-time income.

"Like a number of local authorities who are also in receipt of public funds, we are identifying alternate employment opportunities within the university.

"We have also reached out to community partners and businesses to see where any temporary opportunities for employment of students might be available.

"To support the potential for this, we have also offered UWS HR assistance to these organisations for any associated recruitment processes."