Student rights and welfare have been looked after by student unions in the UK for over a hundred years. Similarly, trade unions have protected the rights of workers since the 1860s when they were first decriminalised in the UK. Student-workers have plenty of supportive mechanisms to call upon when they might need to assert their right to fair treatment at work during their university course. However, support for working students seems to fall between the two stools – the student union mission tends to be focused on students in the educational sphere and on employability after education and trade unions focus on workers outside of the education sphere.
Unions could play a greater part in the working lives of students. Benefits to unions would be manifold. Understanding student-worker experiences in hospitality workplaces would enrich union practice, and pave the way for future membership growth. Visit the Students page to find out more
Why Support Students?
University branches of the student union are positioned to help the students within their jurisdiction, but support is often focussed on living, studying, and planning for the future within the confines of their university. Students with problems in the workplace do not always consider turning to their student unions, yet the impact of workplace issues often disrupt students, making life at university deeply stressful.
UNITE is the major union representing workers in the UK’s hospitality sector. It has achieved much over many years in terms of improved pay and conditions. Students, as part-time irregular workers, could reap more benefit from flexible arrangements but would benefit from more support and outreach from unions.
How to help
There is great potential in student unions and trade unions coming together to campaign for student-workers who face financial pressures to work while studying. Collaboration between student unions, trade unions and employers could improve employer practice and student-worker retention in the hospitality sector. Unions can help workign students by:
Establishing visible means, within university premises and student accommodation places, of offering student-workers the chance to report work situations to union representatives that they feel are unfair and to offer advice on the law and what they can do.
Making approaches to employers locally that employ students in order to meet and discuss student needs.
Encouraging student-workers to join a trade union and ensuring union reps are aware of the situation for students
Offer direct representation in workplaces if needed
Campaigning for local hospitality sector businesses to sign up to the Good Student Employer Charter and to adopt the 8F Framework of Good Principles in Student Employment.