A petition has been launched by members of Imperial College Union’s (ICU) bar staff asking them to increase the pay to the London Living Wage (LLW) .
The petition, launched last week on the site change.org has amassed close to 300 signatures at the time of the writing.
Felix has been told staff are currently paid £8.41 per hour; the petition aims to bring this figure up to £10.20 per hour. The LLW is a recommended minimum wage for people working and living in the capital, due to its higher living costs. Ella Rice, a long time staff member who initiated the petition, told Felix: “My petition is actually less about London Living Wage and more about the Union actually valuing it’s bar staff, who regularly go above and beyond alongside having to deal with many difficult situations. A wage increase to £10 instead of the LLW would be an equally significant pay rise.”
Rice added: “I have worked at the bar for all four years of my degree. During this time, I have cleaned up vomit, urine, and faeces, I have been verbally abused with every possible combination of swear words during 13 hour shifts and have still manage to serve people with both energy and a smile. The bar staff are continuously treated with contempt and are often blindly hated simply as a result of us doing our job.”
According to the petition, ICU is the only major London university union not paying the LLW – King’s College London, University College London, and the London School of Economics are among those that pay LLW. Approached by Felix for a comment, Matt Blackett, ICU’s Deputy President (Finance & Services), said: “We have chosen not to participate in the London Living Wage programme as it would negatively affect too many of our members. This initiative would increase our staffing costs by roughly £125,000 per year, permanently, which is enough to fund all of our Clubs, Societies and Projects for four months, or the Advice Centre for almost two years.”
ICU told Felix if bar staff were moved to the LLW, other comparable roles would also need to switch to LLW, e.g. staff in the Union shop. To cover the estimated costs, Rice proposed increasing the price of pints by 5p and the food by 10p per dish. Blackett told Felix that ICU is unwilling to increase prices or reduce funding to other student-facing services, saying: “None of those options are acceptable to me as the elected representative of our members.”
If a compromise could not be reached, Rice told Felix bar staff may consider striking; she said if they did so for the next ACC night and Summer Ball, it could lead to monetary losses higher than the amount needed for the pay rise.
The price of pints at Imperial has long been a subject of contention between students and Union with many candidates during the last ICU elections promising to prevent price increases.