We at Manchester Labour Students have taken on the Living Wage campaign this year in an attempt to transform the University of Manchester into a Living Wage organisation.
Our campaign began on November 14th when Teddy Ryan came to do a training session with us about how best to tackle the campaign. This was very useful for members who hadn’t already been to a training session at a national labour students event and it motivated everyone to get behind the campaign ahead of us.
Later in the week, we made a huge ‘Manchester Labour Students Living Wage Campaign’ banner and posed for a photograph, alongside an article for the Mancunion, the largest student newspaper in the country. Not only did we get an article in the paper, but we made Pages 1 and 2.
The following Monday (21st), we set up a stall outside the Student Union on Oxford Road. We had a stall up all day every day of that week and it proved to be a huge success. Everyone on the executive committee, not to mention other committed members, really got behind the campaign and we never had less than three people at a time helping out on the stall. This is a huge achievement considering lots of us had essay deadlines. We found there to be a lot of support from ordinary students, many of whom came to the stall having seen the article in the paper.
On the stall, we had a petition for people to sign who were interested in finding out more and who wanted to support the campaign. We have also given petitions to members for them to take back to their halls of residence and seminars in the hope of getting as many names down as possible. As well as having a stall, we have a facebook page which people can ‘like’.
As well as the support of students, we have received official support from other sources. We received a letter from Debbie Abrahams MP a couple of weeks ago, and we hope to receive similar official support from other local politicians soon. On 9th December, we hosted an event with Chuka Umunna MP and Shabana Mahmood MP and they both posed with us behind our banner. We hope that this kind of support will help us when persuading the directors of the merits of the Living Wage. On to0p of this, we hope it will reflect the seriousness of the campaign by showing them that this isn’t another fad student campaign that universities see so many of.
Due to the success of our campaign, the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Nancy Rothwell, has agreed to meet with us . In this meeting we hope to persuade her and the other directors not only the moral obligations of the university to pay a fair wage, but of the merits to the University of being accredited as a Living Wage organisation.
As well as meeting with Ms Rothwell, in the New Year we will start the stall up again. The plan is to have a stall outside the Union every Wednesday to keep the momentum of the campaign going. We will also continue to push for more official support from other large student societies, as well as local MP’s.
Grace Skelton is Vice-Chair of Manchester Labour Students