Call for the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students to pay the living wage!

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After a recent vote was passed by 236 to 4 (a 98.3% YES vote) mandating the officer team of the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students to pay a real living wage, the statement below (see link) has been released claiming that the living wage is ‘not affordable’ and does not represent ‘value for money’ due to ‘the detrimental impact [it] would have on the student experience at Birmingham’. We believe that this is inaccurate, undemocratic, and hugely damaging to many of the 300+ students and other staff who are currently working at our student union for poverty wages.

The Officer statement cites that a living wage would cost the Guild £95,000. The Guild of Students currently generates total income of £5.9m, holds cash of over £2.1m (enough to pay for this policy for the next 20 years and still have money to spare), and generates a large cash surplus. The unelected senior management at the Guild cost £298,381 last year, while the Guild spent £1.1m supporting student groups, £92,000 on consultancy advice, and £18,000 on the Vale fireworks display. To use the financial affordability clause to override Guild democracy on this issue is not acceptable.

Furthermore, in the Beliefs and Commitments of the Guild it states that ‘The Guild supports the Living Wage Campaign, and will make every practical effort to support its implementation, including its implementation across campus’. Why does the Officer Statement not openly call on the University to cover the cost of making the Guild a Living wage employer? Instead their statement simply dismisses the issue as unaffordable and unachievable when it is clearly anything but. The University of Birmingham generated £137,032,000 in surpluses over the past two years and has a Vice Chancellor who earns £439,000 a year, plus an £80,000 incentive scheme and expenses. To make the Guild a living wage employer would have cost the University approximately 0.1% of the total surplus over the past two years. Surely this is a demand we could reasonably make.

Ultimately this is an issue of exploitation of students at a time when maintenance grants for the poorest students have been abolished, mental health services are over stretched, and student accommodation costs are rocketing. We do not want our ‘student experience’ to be built on the back of the abuse of others. Please sign to support a real living wage!

On behalf of Women and Non-Binary Association, LGBTQ Association, Disability & Mental Health Association, Birmingham Socialist Students, University of Birmingham Unison branch and University of Birmingham UCU.

Birmingham Guild of Students Officer Statement against the living wage in full: