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York, UK: Labour Club: Why we need a living wage
The Yorker
Peter Hollingsworth

November 11, 2011
View the Original Article

The Yorker politics team has invited various political societies to provide a fortnightly comment on current affairs. Today it is the turn of the University of York Labour Club.

All of the people that work on our campus, either directly for the University, contractors or YUSU staff deserve to be paid a living wage.

As Ed Miliband says ‘they deserve a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’. The living wage is an idea brought to prominence in the final days of the last Labour Government. Gordon Brown outlined his vision for a substantial increase in the minimum wage that meant hard working people could adequately provide for their families or dependents and strike the right balance between work and family life.

A living wage means hard working people do not need to work extensive hours or hold multiple jobs to make ends meet. It means they have the time to spend with their families. A living wage means earning a decent living.

The last Labour Government was right to bring in legislation that made it compulsory for all employers to pay the living wage, unfortunately though, this is not enough. Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) based at the University of Loughborough have analysed what people need to be able to buy the essentials of day-to-day life and calculated that a minimum of £7.14 per hour needs to be earned in order to cover this. This analysis was gained partly from independent polling of what the public view is an acceptable minimum standard of living including absolute necessities like food, heating and clothing as well as participating in important social activities which enrich our lives.

As David Hirsch, who headed up this research, summarised, “People in Britain define a minimum living standard as being more than what is literally needed to keep people alive. (It) is about having both food and shelter and also about having the opportunities and choices you need in order to participate in society.”

The University of York Labour Club feels strongly about this issue and are now actively campaigning to make sure we can attain a living wage for everyone who works here on our campus. The staff here on campus do a fantastic job providing such wonderful facilities for us and the least we can do is make sure they’re getting the best pay possible.

Improvements in pay can bring further improved qualities of service from greater job satisfaction and motivation. A living wage improves the lives of all stakeholders here on campus as staff get a better pay and students get a better service. Brian Cantor might not like the idea of increasing pay to a minimum of £7.14 an hour, but frankly I think he needs to get his priories right and understand that an increase in pay is so vital for those who he may be out of touch with.

Over the coming weeks you will see the Labour Club around campus campaigning for a living wage. We want to be vocal and public. We think that all directly employed, contractors and YUSU staff should be paid a living wage here on campus. We need to set a vision, so that those working at our institution can get a ‘fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’.

If you feel strongly about this we would love you to join us on our campaign. Please see www.uylc.org.uk for information on how to get involved and join our society. It is only with a wider coalition of support from students and staff here on campus that we can make this priority a reality.

This article is the first in a fortnightly column for the University of York Labour Club. It was written by Peter Hollingsworth who is the Campaigns and Policy Officer for the Club. To contact them, email labour@yusu.org.