The state of student employment

The trend of students being taken advantage of in their part time work has to stop, the illegal conditions we are often forced to work in being my primary motivation for raising this issue. Plenty of students work at some point over the course of their three year, but so often we are employed by companies taking advantage of our naivety and desperation.

I know people who work 12 hours straight with only a 20 minute break and then are asked to stay on longer. I also a place that thinks nothing of putting people down to work for 16 hours with no break at all. The gaps between shifts are nearly as bad — finishing at 3am only having to be back by 10am is not just mean, it’s illegal.

A piece of advice: please never ever say you have flexibility in your working hours. A friend has been put down in her first week to work 30 hours when she specifically said 8-12 both on her CV and in the interview. These anecdotes illustrate the difficult conditions that are typical in York.

Not only are the hours punishing, the vast majority of the jobs pay minimum wage or just above it. That’s as little as £4.98 an hour. On top of this, there are the appalling tips, very few of us work in places that expect the customers to leave 10% or more, so you can’t even make up the difference between a well-paid part time job and your own.

Sexual harassment and sexism is rife, working in a bar is one of the most degrading experiences that we all seem to put ourselves through at one point or another. I know of employers who openly admit to only hiring young, female students who fit a certain criteria in the hope it will bring in more custom. No one signs up to be used as bait.

I chose not to disclose the employer in question, because the real issue I want to raise is that we shouldn’t put up with this behaviour from anyone. Students are known for their campaigning, and this is an issue which directly affects us.

As we are being treated so badly, why do so many of us stick at these jobs? Perhaps it is for the benefit of our CVs – they certainly teach you a lot. But if it is making you miserable, tired and distracted from your studies, then it is never worth it. I personally would rather take up a volunteering post that will directly benefit my career plans than go back to part time work.

Unfortunately, some students in York have no choice but to work. Student finance seems to believe that all of our parent’s money that’s going spare is coming directly towards us, however in reality it is a very different situation. Having just supported another human being for the last 18 years, it’s no surprise that no many parents are desperate to cut the apron strings and finally enjoy some of their money.

There’s a huge amount of injustice occurring in funding our studies and it seems to just be accepted as the norm. Talking to my family and supervisor, I realised this isn’t normal and shouldn’t be accepted lying down, it is time students stood up for themselves.

Ultimately, nothing is more important than time spent studying, it’s what we are paying so much money for. The experience at university is great but at the end of it all if you don’t leave with a degree you’re happy with it’s likely to follow you around like a bad smell for the rest of your life.

We can all only do so much, and the way I see it, we can work in bars whenever we want but never again will our lives be so free to follow up the chance to become octopush champion of the world. We are worth more, and should expect more.

3 comments

  1. Whaa whaa I have to be a student AND be employed! I have to do the sort of jobs that poor people do!

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  2. Actually, I’ve worked since the day I turned 16, being unemployed isn’t what I want. But I refuse to put up with illegal working hours and the generally awful treatment that I and many of my friends have been subjected to since trying to take up work in York. I’m merely trying to raise the point that we don’t put up with this sort of behaviour anywhere else, and we shouldn’t feel pressurised into staying in a job that is having a negative impact on our studies/university experience and operated in an illegal manner.

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