Update from our Opportunities Officer Charlie Walker
At the start of this year I said that my proudest moment of being an Officer was asking for a review into implementing the Living Wage for our staff.
I’m very happy to report that Durham Students’ Union is now officially a Living Wage accredited Employer! Meaning our entire permanent, student and contracted staff earns not just the minimum wage but the real Living Wage. The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently by the Living Wage Foundation and updated annually, based on the cost of living in the UK.
The Students’ Union Assembly passed policy in 2014 to support the SU and the University paying all staff a Living Wage but neither the University nor the SU acted on the issue. After becoming an officer I pledged to take the issue to a meeting of the SU’s Commercial Group, which I co-chair. I then raised the issue at the SU Finance Committee and the proposal was put into the budget, which passed at the final board meeting of the year in June.
A special mention must go to outgoing NUS Officer Robbie Young and Durham University Labour Club, and I also thank the outgoing Co-Chairs Joe Dharampal-Hornby and Laura Foster for campaigning on this issue.
I was passionate about Durham SU becoming a Living Wage employer because many of our Durham SU team are students - who can be time poor and cash poor - it is only right that they get paid fairly for their time. Many students have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet; by paying the correct wage we can combat this, allowing students more time to focus on their studies, without worrying about surviving financially.
While this symbolises a commitment to the improvement of the terms and conditions of our staff, the work won't stop here. As one of the biggest employers in Durham, we hope the University will follow suit and commit to accrediting with the Living Wage Foundation, in line with its aims of social responsibility.
Fellow Russell Group Universities have taken steps to become accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. In April 2017 the University of Oxford became accredited to demonstrate their commitment to paying a fair wage to all staff.
The University of Cambridge are also seeking formal accreditation. Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) President Daisy Eyre said: “All of the workers at this University contribute to our education and deserve to be paid fairly. I am so proud of the work done by students campaigning for this and happy that the University will be taking this step. I believe that this will benefit the institution for years to come. By accrediting to the Living Wage Foundation, we are building a legacy in which future generations are guaranteed a decent wage.”
I will continue to work with students and societies, and reach out to the Trade Unions representing University staff to campaign for the real Living Wage in Durham University. Not only is it the right thing to do, but students would benefit from living in a university community where all staff are paid a fair wage for their work.
From a student perspective, pay is an issue of particular concern to postgraduate teachers in the University. Postgraduates have not received a pay rise in 10 years. Lots of them work almost twice as many hours than they are paid for by the University.
Postgraduates deserve fair pay and conditions just like everybody else who works at Durham University. They are part of our educational experience, and we have a responsibility to fight for them to have a decent wage. Paying the Living wage is the right thing to do, and I hope that the University joins us in committing to pay it to all of its workers.