The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has voted to demand that the Students’ Association pay all members of staff a living wage, which is currently £7.45 per hour.
The motion to adopt a policy of paying a living wage to all members of staff employed by the Association was brought to the SRC by Callum Bryce, the SRC external campaigns officer. Bryce wanted the Association to align itself with the Living Wage Foundation, which would mean that all casual staffers employed by the Association would be paid wages deemed by the Foundation to be enough to live on. Although all permanent members of staff in the Association are already paid above this figure, some casual employees are paid at the national minimum wage rate of £6.31 per hour.
During the summer break the University decided that all of its members of staff would be paid above the living wage rate. The lowest pay rate for members of University staff is now £7.53 per hour.
The debate over the motion focused on the cost of implementing living wage policy. It is estimated that paying all members of staff at this rate would cost the Students’ Association around an extra £18,000.
Education researcher Ian Cupples explained: “We are exposed to commercial pressure in a way that just isn’t true of the University… The difference is about £18,000. To put that in context, the entire surplus for last year was about £46,000 so it represents about 40 per cent of the entire surplus that we made last year. That is obviously quite a significant amount of money for the Association. Having said that, I know that if the board did agree to pay this higher rate, they would expect the amount we spend on wages compared to the gross amount of money coming in over the bar or through the tills to be exactly the same. To do that, it would be our job as management to either increase the amount of money that is coming in through the tills or to decrease the amount of hours that we are paying for.”
Daniel Johnston, chair of St Andrews Labour Society, also spoke at the meeting. Last year, the Labour Society collected 478 signatures for the ‘petition to end poverty pay on our campus’, part of the Living Wage campaign. He stated that there were three reasons that this motion was important: “Firstly, no one who works on our campus should be paid poverty wages. It will also raise awareness within our community. It will act as a springboard to pressure other local businesses to make sure students are paid a fair wage for a decent day of work.
“The second point I want to make is that it does make a huge difference to people. Daniel [Palmer] made a point that people are not living full time off this wage and it’s questionable as to whether or not it would make that much difference to people but speaking from personal experience, as I am employed at one of the halls of residence, when I experienced the wage increase from £7.15 per hour to £7.53, what it meant for me and my other fellow students was that we didn’t have to take on that extra shift that we would have had to have taken on to accrue the same amount. It means I have more time to focus on my studies and more time to do the kind of things that students who are not under financial pressure would be able to do.
“The third point is a question of ethics and it has already been mentioned that the Association does take into account ethical judgements when it comes to paying staff. It was an ethical judgement to pay all staff the same basic rate regardless of their age. So already there is a policy of including ethical judgements in deciding peoples pay. By deciding to not pass this, you guys [would be] passing an ethical judgement saying you don’t believe in a living wage for all employees… It’s about being consistent with ethical practice and our employees.”
Following some discussion, the SRC voted to amend the resolution to add that the Students’ Association would like a larger block grant from the University to help cover the expenses of paying casual employees the higher wages. The overall motion passed with 16 members voting for and one voting against. The resolution will now go to the Association’s staffing committee, which will determine whether it will be invoked.
The SRC also discussed how to replace Sadie Hochfield, the Association community relations officer, who stepped down this week. It is hoped that a new member will be co-opted at a joint council meeting in two weeks’ time.