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Guest Blog: Robbie Young - Vice President (Society and Citizenship), National Union of Students

Some people still believe that the Living Wage – a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – is a radical concept. It really isn’t. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the argument for a Living Wage over 80 years ago, back in 1933.

Yet for too many people in the UK, low pay is still a fact of life. For too many of our members, student support is inadequate as it is; low pay makes that struggle even worse.

The Living Wage campaign is about the right of individuals to live without fear of destitution. Over the past 16 years, the Living Wage movement has secured a pay rise of £613,000,000 for some of the most vulnerable in society and lifted more than 150,000 people out of poverty.

The new Living Wage rates were announced at the launch of Living Wage Week, and are £10.20 in London and £8.75 in the rest of the UK.

This year’s Living Wage Week runs from 6th – 11th of November. It’s a celebration of what has been achieved, so it’s important to recognise and commend those who are showing leadership by choosing to go further than the government’s minimum.

Universities from Aberdeen to Winchester, colleges from Plymouth to Norwich and students’ unions from Strathclyde to Falmouth have all become accredited Living Wage Employers, very often thanks to the dedication and passion of student and trade union campaigners.

Even better, the power of the student movement campaigning for the Living Wage isn’t just limited to our students’ union and university or college staff.

We must celebrate this amazing work, but there’s so much more still to do. A recent report has shown that 5.5 million people in the UK still earn less than the real Living Wage rates, which are independently calculated based on what it actually costs to live.

We should be highlighting the lack of a Living Wage across the UK. We should be campaigning for all young people under the age of 25 as the ‘national living wage’ doesn’t apply to younger workers. Shockingly, a 19 year old working full time on the real UK Living Wage rate will earn £6100 more than if they were paid the government minimum, and nearly £9000 more in London.

Within our universities and students’ unions we should be ensuring that we are paying the Living Wage. We should be an example to the rest of society when it comes to workers’ rights and fair pay, so this is an excellent time to work with your local trade union and invite them to help campaign on such issues. And we can support local campaign groups to secure the living wage for other workers in the private, public and third sectors.

Most importantly, we need to keep up the pressure. We’ve made astonishing progress in the last few years. But it took Roosevelt five years to push his policy through, and the argument for a minimum wage in the UK was only won in 1997 when Tony Blair made it a key pledge in the Labour manifesto. Yet the moral urgency of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is clear. As David Cameron stated, the Living Wage is an “idea whose time has come.” We need to turn that idea into a reality for everyone.

Robbie Young

Vice President (Society and Citizenship)

NUS UK 

9th November 2017, 15:19
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