A recent information pack issued by Leeds University Union to all Leadership Race candidates has revealed that the biggest concern facing students during their first term at university was “money and finances”, overtaking 2014/15’s top worry of “work/life balance”. In addition, 85% of students rank “Improving the living wage” as being “highly important” or “important” to them, and 51.6% of students surveyed said they were concerned that the minimum wage is too low.
However, LUU pays some of its student staff neither a living wage but instead a minimum wage dependent on age, despite the NUS officially campaigning for the living wage on university campuses as far back as 2012. As things currently stand, bar staff at both Terrace and Old Bar receive either the National Minimum Wage of £6.70 for over 21’s, or £5.30 for those between the ages of 18 and 20.
In February of last year, an idea calling for all Union staff to be paid the same minimum wage, regardless of age, was put to a Better Union Forum by Andru Lawson. In his proposal, Mr Lawson said that he felt the Union “should pay all staff who do equivalent jobs equally, regardless their age.” He went on to stress that while the current method of paying staff is legal, “it is not fair to those who get paid less, especially when many of the staff are students who already live on a budget.” The idea was rejected by a panel of randomly selected students.
Then Union Affairs Officer, Bradley Escorcio opposed the motion and argued against it at forum. He told The Gryphon at the time, “students on the panel deliberated arguments on both sides of the debate but there was a consensus that this should not be a priority for the Union as the resources could be better spent to benefit a wider range of students.”
When asked to comment LUU’s reluctance to increase the pay of student bar staff, a Leeds University Union spokesperson said: “We welcome the discussion and debate surrounding the Living Wage. The idea to increase all student staff wages to the living wage has been debated at our student forum twice and did not pass either time. Currently over 60% of our workforce are students, and we aim to provide paid work opportunities to as many students as possible, introducing the living wage would mean that we’d have to employ fewer students overall.”
“However, as part of our Strategic Plan we will be reviewing the way we reward all staff members and we’ll continue to work with the Student Exec and our student staff members on the issue of pay.”
Benjamin Cook & Rachel King