The Students’ Union Board of Trustees met on Friday 22 June to debate how best to fulfil its commitment to paying the Living Wage to student staff. At the current time, the Living Wage Foundation advocates that organisations should pay the Living Wage rate when they can afford to do so. While the Board has already endorsed the principles that underpin the idea of a Living Wage, it was agreed that in light of pressures on overall finances the Students’ Union cannot afford to pay Living Wage to student staff at this time.
The student referendum that took place last June (with 901 votes for, and 38 against), requested that the cost of paying the Living Wage be funded by price rises in our shops and bar. This was trialled but unfortunately will not generate sufficient income. As such, and in the short term, the cost would have to be met by stopping some activities or not pursuing new initiatives that are crucial for student success, especially in the area of student welfare and wellbeing. The Board considered that the students who voted in the referendum approved a shift to the Living Wage believing that the cost could be covered by price rises. The Board has not taken the referendum outcome as a mandate to make this change by suspending other activities and preventing new projects for which students have also expressed strong support.
The Students’ Union is committed to employing students wherever possible, and currently pays an enhanced Minimum Wage rate for all student staff. The Students’ Union offers enhanced flexibility for all student staff during exams and for other deadlines, and will continue to invest any surplus funds into wider student experience initiatives.
Recognising the strong support for the principle of paying a Living Wage, the Board of Trustees will implement this change as soon as it is possible and to find a way of doing so that is sustainable and affordable.
When did the Living Wage referendum happen?
June 2017 - voting took place between Friday 9 June and Thursday 22 June.
What were students asked to vote on?
"With an average price increase of less than 5% in the SU shops (SPAR Portland, SPAR Jubilee and Mooch), would you support paying the Living Wage (£8.45) to all 150-student staff working at the Students’ Union?”
The following voting options were offered: Yes/ No/ Abstain. Quoracy for this election was 852 votes. Final results: 901 votes for, 38 against and 4 abstained.
What does the SU currently pay student staff?
The SU currently pays at least an enhanced Minimum Wage rate for all student staff. This is currently £7.38, unless the individual is over 25 years old, at which point National Minimum Wage is paid which is currently £7.83. By paying at least £7.38 per hour to student staff, the SU pays well above the legal Minimum Wage for 18-21 years old which is currently only £5.90 per hour. We offer enhanced flexibility for all student staff at the time of exams and deadlines.
Does the SU pay the equivalent Voluntary Living Wage for permanent staff?
Yes, the University of Nottingham Students’ Union has committed that the minimum hourly rate for permanent staff will be set at or above the Living Wage Foundation rate when the pay ranges are reviewed on 1 August of each year. This was approved by the Board of Trustees with affect from 1 January 2016.
What has the SU been doing since the June 2017 referendum?
The SU Community Officer has been working hard all year with the SU’s staff team to trial the price rises in our shops that were requested in the referendum, and work through the necessary steps to try and make paying the Living Wage to student staff a reality. This included regularly updating our Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, the price rises did not generate sufficient income to fund the cost of implementing the Living Wage and while alternatives were explored, the Board have ultimately decided that the Living Wage cannot be afforded at this time.
Will the SU pay the Living Wage in the future?
The Board of Trustees is committed to the principle of fair pay and a Living Wage and the Board recognised the importance of this, and in trying to follow our democratic processes wherever possible. The SU is currently in the process of looking at its strategy and plans for the next five years and Living Wage for student staff will be included as one of the priorities for consideration. This will be reviewed along with other priorities that emerge in line with the available funding.
Is the SU an accredited Living Wage employer?
No, the Students’ Union is not currently signed up to be an accredited member to the voluntary Living Wage. While the Students’ Union is not yet able to apply for accreditation, we have committed to pay all permanent staff at or above the Living Wage.
For more information on the Living Wage visit: https://www.livingwage.org.uk/what-real-living-wage