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Studying on a low wage
Student Socialist editor Pedro Meade interviewed a London student about his experiences of trying to live and study in one of the world's most expensive cities.
What are your experiences of working as a student?
Because of work I'm only on campus to go to classes which limits the university experience to just doing your course. In terms of affecting study, I've got a course with a lot of contact time so you have to try and arrange everything around that and it means that if you need to do any extra work you don't have a lot of flexibility.
You have to plan ahead for deadlines and in some cases it means working right up to the deadline to fit it all in. You don't have as much time to rest and recuperate.
I should have more time to prepare for classes. Most of my friends are working; I think it's the norm for most students to be working now.
What is your job like?
I work for a catering agency that pays £6.50 an hour. To make it worthwhile I work 12 hours, finishing very late at night.
Getting a few hours sleep and then going to college obviously has an effect on my work. But what really sticks in my throat is seeing the absolute extravagance and wealth there is in the City of London.
Often I work at big celebrity functions where people are bidding thousands and thousands of pounds in these charity auctions.
I worked at one function that was £10,000 a head to come to while we were being paid £6.50 an hour to serve these people.
Of this enormous wealth and the huge profits being made by the company, the bare minimum is filtered down to the workers, who are racing around to allow these people to have a very enjoyable evening.
Do you think you should join a union to fight for better working conditions?
I've joined Amicus because they offered a special student rate but in reality they haven't done anything to try and organise more students.
Unionising agency workers is very important because often they are the most exploited and working in the worst conditions. I worked at the Open golf championship last year with lots of student workers.
Even though there was no unionisation because everyone was a temporary worker there was almost a walkout.
People instinctively saw that they were being exploited and were looking to organise. If the unions could tap in to that mood they could go some way to organising students.
Do you think that working students are angry about their conditions? Do you think they want to fight back?
I think there definitely is a kind of anger, but it often manifests itself as demoralisation because people are working such long hours alongside their studies.
Having time to organise is very difficult. But if they were shown a lead and shown it was possible to organise and fight for better conditions then I think students would jump at that opportunity.
Students should get involved in ISR's Boost Our Pay campaign which fights for better pay and conditions for young people in the workplace and particularly for those that find it hard to organise within the unions.
In The Socialist 20 September 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Workplace news and analysis