Last year, Finn McGoldrick was a student at the University of Manchester. After attending Movement for Change training, she worked closely with us and developed into a fantastic Movement for Change activist. Using Community Organising techniques, Finn was a key person in ensuring the University introduced the Living Wage.
Hi, I’m Finn. Before I get into the detail of what happened last year, there are three numbers I want you to keep in mind: 3,000, 7.20, and 1.
It all started with a training session with Movement for Change at the Labour Students summer training school. On the train back to Manchester a few of us started talking about how amazing it would be to run a Living Wage campaign on our own campus – but I don’t think any of us realised the impact it would have.
Back at university, we decided to get organised. We set about getting an action off the ground, holding a listening campaign with low-paid staff and relevant unions. Getting students and staff to work together was a priority from the outset. This was key not only to helping us develop powerful allies for our actions, but also to bring credibility and authenticity to our joint call for a Living Wage. I spent time talking to Mary, the woman who cleaned the part of the University I lived in, and was shocked to discover that she had to work two jobs so that she could make ends meet, as neither paid a Living Wage.
As Labour Students, we planned a broad campaign to get as many students on board as possible. We had lecture shout outs, petitions, banners and letters of support from MPs, leading to a front page cover in the main student newspaper (pictured).
As a result of concerted pressure, we finally managed to secure a meeting with our Vice Chancellor. Movement for Change organisers were vital in getting us ready for that meeting. They conducted mock negotiations with us and helped with the logistics of everything from strategy to Freedom of Information requests. Most importantly, they insisted that activists should lead the negotiation rather than professional organisers.
So I found myself in the Vice Chancellor’s office, meeting with her and the head of HR. After just under an hour, we walked out with a guarantee that the University (which is one of the biggest employers in the region) would pay all non-student staff the Living Wage. The biggest win for us was that this included agency staff, and that all procurement contracts would include a requirement to pay the Living Wage
By acting collectively and negotiating for change, we played helped bring 23 employees out of low pay, and helped ensure that outsourcing does not become a means to sneak low wages back onto our campus
Finally, back to the numbers: 3,000 was how many people signed the Living Wage petition. £7.20 an hour is now the lowest that any non-student gets paid at the University of Manchester. And 1 – 1 is the number of jobs Mary now has.