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.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Low Pay at the University of Nottingham – the students’ perspective.

In the morning of 14 November, the Living Wage/Anti-casualisation campaign at Nottingham University held a big ‘clean-in’ protest in the courtyard of the main University building (Nottingham Post, 14 November 2017). The broad alliance of campus trade unions, student societies, Students’ Union officers and Nottingham Citizens called ‘on the new Vice Chancellor, Shearer West, to “do the right thing” and commit the university to paying all its staff, including cleaners and other low paid workers, the Living Wage’ (Andrea Oates, Ceasefire, 15 November 2017). In this blog post, I will present several of the speeches by students, supporting the campaign.

‘The university thinks that students don’t care about the living wage, that we are apolitical and that all we care about is expensive new buildings and being top of the league tables. We are here to show them that what we care about is the people that make our experience here great, the people that get up at 5am and clean our lecture theatres and are on to their second jobs before we’ve even woken up, the people who are rarely thanked. So I’d like to say, on behalf of the students of Nottingham, a big thank you for all you do. Hence our support for the Living Wage campaign ensuring a decent standard of living for our cleaners.’

Ellie Mitchell, Students’ Union Community Officer

Photo by Anisa Mustafa

‘Good Morning everyone, my name is Michael and Im here to speak on behalf of students, and as a student can I just say that I understand how difficult it is to be anywhere at half 8 in the morning, so thank you for coming. Im also a representative of Nottingham Labour Students who have supported this campaign for a number of years - but values of respect, dignity and solidarity are not confined to any one political party. Theyre values that all students at the University should share.

We are told time and time again that we are all part of a world class academic community here at Nottingham, but those world class standards are not upheld when it comes to the working conditions and pay levels of our staff - that solidarity is not extended to the very people who work hard every day to ensure that this community is clean and safe. 

And let me make this clear, this is not a question of money, the university has millions of pounds in surplus - the money is there  this is a question of values. Whether we value the livelihood of our cleaners and staff members above the need for a shiny new TV in front of the Portland building, for example. Now for me and many people here I suspect, that is not a tough question, but for the University unfortunately, it does seem to be. 

And that is why we as a student body, the very people who pay the New Vice-Chancellors wages, need to send a strong and unified message, about the overwhelming level of student support for this campaign. So I ask you to continue this momentum, to get more involved in the campaign if youre not already, even simply to tweet your support at the new VC. We need to explain to her that paying a wage that you cannot live on, is no longer acceptable at this university. Thank you for your support in this vital campaign.’

Michael Millar, Nottingham Labour Students

For an interview with Tasha Bednall, Environment and Social Justice Officer of the University of Nottingham Students’ Union, see HerCampus at Nottingham. For further coverage in the students’ media at Nottingham University, see Impact, the official student magazine.

Andreas Bieler

Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website:

23 November 2017

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