YUSU has announced that it will be holding an extraordinary referendum in response to the University’s refusal to commit to becoming a Living Wage accredited employer.
While the University pays all of its staff a minimum of £7.85 an hour, the Living Wage equivalent, employees of York Conferences Limited (YCL), a subsidiary company of the University, are not included in this policy.
A recent statement from David Duncan, University Registrar and Secretary, suggested the University was highly unlikely to change this policy in the near future.
Duncan told Nouse: “Our policy is to take account of the [Living Wage Foundation] rates in our annual negotiations with the campus trade unions, but not to guarantee that we will always follow the LWF’s recommendations.”
Sam Maguire, YUSU President, said: “[The University] have made it clear that they are unwilling to sign up to being a Living Wage [accredited] employer, so it is now time to find out what the full student-body think and act accordingly.”
The referendum will consist of two questions. The first will ask whether YUSU should “lobby the University to apply for Living Wage Employer status with phased implementation from the Living Wage Foundation”.
The second will ask whether YUSU should “conduct a research project into a ‘Student Living Wage’ in conjunction with an independent research body such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Trust”.
The referendum is the result of an idea submitted by Stuart Maule on behalf of the University of York Living Wage Campaign Group, which consists of the University’s Green Party, Labour Club, Liberal Democrats, Socialist and Quakers societies.
The original proposal also asked YUSU to apply for Living Wage accreditation but Maguire confirmed the Union would not be doing this. He explained in a blog post: “When contacted the Living Wage Foundation made it clear that the wage rate they have developed is inappropriate for students due to certain tax exemptions (council) and the relatively small proportion of students with dependents.”
Instead, students employed by YUSU are paid the Student Living Wage which amounts to “no more than £1 less than the living wage”. However, Maguire went on to say that YUSU was “interested in establishing a proper ‘student living wage’ with an independent research body so that we can pay the right wage that will effectively reward student employees”.
All non-student staff who are employed by the Union are currently paid the Living Wage.
As the referendum is an extraordinary one, there will be no formal campaign coordinators. However, a meeting will be held on Monday 9 March to allow members to put forward their views. The meeting will be held at 6:00pm in V/045.
Voting will then open at 12:00pm on Tuesday 10th March before ending on Thursday 12 at 12:00pm. The final results will be announced on Friday.