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Student lobbying, believe it or not, can actually work sometimes. After LUSU’s campaign to increase the minimum wage of its employees, Lancaster University has agreed to the new, nationwide proposal of the “Living Wage”. This means that, instead of LUSU employees working for the minimum wage of £6.19 if you are over 21, or £4.98 is you are aged 18-20, LUSU employees will have a salary equivalent to the calculated wage necessary for a normal standard of living in the UK – namely £7.45 an hour.
But is this really enough? Even if you worked the maximum adult working hours in a week, you would still only get a weekly wage of £357.60. It doesn’t sound so bad, but considering all the expenses of maintaining a “normal” standard of living, £357.60 has to cover rent, bills and food, not mention added expense if you need transport or if you provide for a family. In an increasingly technological age, living costs are constantly rising, whether because of the necessity of owning a computer or because of inflation which sees our food bills climbing week on week.
Even so, credit needs to be given for the university’s decision. Yes, £7.45 an hour is probably not enough, but the university is voluntarily complying with a national campaign. Our higher education system has finally listened to us concerning money, and that in itself is worthy of applause. As Rosalia O’Reilly, LUSU’s Vice President for Equality, Welfare and Diversity, quite rightly stated: “minimum wage is proven not to be enough to sustain a family on, and it is only right that our workers are given the respect of a full living wage.” It’s about time that the amazing work that the students’ union does is rewarded. LUSU manages to stand firm against criticism from all directions and, let’s face it, Lancaster University wouldn’t be Lancaster University without it.
Looking a little wider though, we have to consider ourselves lucky. Many other universities have not yet implemented the Living Wage and as such, students are left facing rising living costs and little funding. It is no longer viable to live on £6.19 an hour (despite the 11p increase set for 1st October). If living costs are estimated at £7.45 an hour, and the government wants to ensure that every single person in the UK is experiencing a “normal” standard of living, then surely it is common sense that the minimum wage needs to be set at £7.45 an hour instead.
I also cannot tell you how grateful I am that I do not live in London, where things are even worse. Because of the higher living costs of living in the capital, the Living Wage is set at £8.55 an hour, yet the minimum wage of £6.19 is national. If you think we’re not well off, consider the students living in London, whose university may not implement the Living Wage. They have to survive off very little funding and simply do not have access to the wage required for a normal standard of living. The economic situation is bad in Lancaster, but be grateful we don’t have the added difficulty of the higher living expenses of the capital.
This is why, despite the wage of £7.45 an hour not being enough, we have to be grateful for what we have. All universities need to implement this Living Wage in order to ensure that students nationwide can maintain a decent standard of living. The people who work for student bodies across the country cannot be rewarded enough for the fantastic work that they do, and the new Living Wage implemented at Lancaster University is the first step towards better economic situations.