The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Students’ Union of Nottingham University moves towards paying a Living Wage. When will the University follow?

In a referendum organised by students at the University of Nottingham, an overwhelming majority of 96 per cent of participating students voted in favour of the University of Nottingham Students’ Union (SU) to become a Living Wage employer and pay its entire staff the Living Wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. In this guest post, Ed Marks, one of the leading activists in the referendum, reflects on the outcome.

The voting statistics are as follows:

Total votes cast: 943
Votes for: 901
Votes against: 38
Abstentions: 4

A resounding win for the campaign - a majority of 96%! But what makes this an important result? And why was the majority so large?

The Living Wage is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation to take into account how much a person needs to earn in order to afford all the necessities of life. This includes money spent on food, accommodation etc. This is in contrast to the ‘National Living Wage’ a term used by the government to relabel the minimum wage for over 25s. The related wage, however, does not match the figure calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, falling short by roughly £1 an hour. Given its definition, it is clear why an organisation should pay the Living Wage - to ensure its employees have enough to live on. But for a Students’ Union, and our Students’ Union in particular, there are many more reasons.

First, many of the SU’s staff are students themselves. In order to be representative of those students, and all students, it should be paying them a decent wage. This has not been the case so far. The entry level of pay for students was the government minimum wage according to their age bracket. This meant that younger students were being paid even less than older students. Indeed, the majority of students fall into the 18-20 bracket, the rate of pay for which is only £5.60 per hour. This is simply an unacceptable wage for students struggling to afford accommodation, food, and academic necessities such as textbooks and course materials on top of £9000 annual tuition fees.

Student Campaign video:

Not only does this referendum result bring about more equality in pay for age ranges at the SU, but it provides those seeking employment to supplement their student loans with a great deal more financial stability. This stability, necessary for students to get them through university, is now provided by the SU to its employees.

Finally, with the momentum and success of this referendum we may set our targets on the much larger employer on campus: the University. Currently the University of Nottingham employs hundreds of staff below the Living Wage (see Nottingham – Living Wage City? Living Wage University?). With the added pressure from the SU now paying the Living Wage we are in a much better position to change this. Nevertheless, this will only happen, if pressure on the University is applied by the student body. The campaign for the motion was run in large part by the campus Living Wage Campaign. We hope it raises the discussion among students about why the University continues to refuse paying all its staff a Living Wage.

We have won the battle for better wages in the SU, now we must bring the fight to the University and ensure that it does the same!

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