12 November 2021

UEL students gathered at University of East London to celebrate UEL's 10-year commitment to paying the Real Living Wage to all staff at the University. 10 years ago, UEL implemented its decision to pay the Living Wage to all its workers which it has been doing ever since.  

In the run-up to Living Wage Week, which runs from 15 - 21  November 30 students met to recognise University of East London's commitment on the issue of low pay. They celebrated the University for the commitment. 

Students who took part in the Leadership Academy, which is created in partnership with grassroots organisation Citizens UK, were responsible for organising the event. Students gathered to share stories of how low pay has affected them and their communities, they celebrated with refreshments and even balloons with the letter 10 on them to mark the 10-Year Commitment. 

UEL students in 2015, Launching a Living Wage Zone in the Royal Docks

UEL students in 2015, Launching a Living Wage Zone in the Royal Docks

2021 is the 20-year anniversary of the Living Wage Campaign which was started in East London. Community leaders had listened within their organisations before Citizens UK brought together churches, mosques, schools and other local institutions to talk about the issues affecting their communities. One issue came up again and again - low pay. 

So the community leaders and Citizens UK launched a Living Wage Campaign. At the time the minimum wage was set at £3.70 an hour. Some people were working two or three minimum wage jobs and still struggling to make ends meet.  And nowhere more so than in London, where housing and childcare costs are much higher than in other parts of the country. They began to convince employers to go above and beyond the minimum and pay a Real Living Wage to their workers. They managed to convince employers to pay a Real Living Wage, and the campaign has gathered pace with now over 9,000 businesses across the UK paying the Real Living Wage. 

What is the Real Living Wage? The Real Living Wage is independently calculated based on what it actually costs to live. It's the difference between being able to afford things you need for a decent quality of life; things like healthy food, a warm home and a birthday treat for your children. The real Living Wage is currently £10.85 in London and £9.30 UK wide. New rates will be announced during Living Wage Week due to the rising cost of living. 

Grace Akinyemi, a UEL student who lives in Newham and helped organise the event said,

I have lived in the London Borough  of Newham for that last 27 years, and my family and I have experienced the impact of low pay. I have seen a lots of families struggle through low pay and I have seen others who are paid a fair wage flourish. The Living Wage put is one of the ways we can eradicate low pay within our community. People have worked so hard for the last 20 years to help impact families to break the circle of poverty through their campaign to give families better pay and better life. We wanted to continue that legacy."

Fran Zanatta, a senior lecturer from the School of Education and Communities at UEL said,

"We know many of our students face challenges when working in low-paid jobs while at University. It has been amazing to see students who wouldn’t ordinarily see themselves as leaders, organise the event. Many of them have stepped up and taken on leadership roles and responsibility for this event. Just like the initial campaign that was started by grassroots community leaders, and those who have experienced low pay, so was this event. It's great to see the students getting involved in this work."