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Unions challenge low pay regime for student jobs

PUPILS leaving school for university this summer face the prospect of lowly paid, part-time work, not for "lipstick and lager" but to meet basic needs, Rowena Arshad, a member of the Cubie inquiry into student finance, told the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Edinburgh.

Studies showed 52 per cent of Glasgow University students were part-time workers. Elsewhere in the west of Scotland, the figures were 56 per cent at Paisley, 76 per cent at Strathclyde, and 79 per cent at Caledonian.

In some institutions, students worked on average 14 hours a week, in others 20, while some individuals worked between 30 and 40. "These students were working practically full-time and also being full-time students. Their average wages were pound;3.71 to pound;4.05 an hour. First year students worked longer hours," Ms Arshad said.

Anti-social hours were often accompanied by dangerous journeys to and from work. "In Glasgow, they are found working in a range of industries from cinemas to safari parks, fast-food outlets to football clubs, call centres to coffee shops. Four out of 10 students work in supermarkets."

Delegates backed a call for a campaign to persuade students to fight for their rights.

Government and employers must drop their anti-union stance and involve teachers, Ronnie Smith, general secretar of the Educational Institute of Scotland, told congress.

"For too long," Mr Smith said, "those working in the education service have been left feeling that things are forever being done to them by employers and Government and that feeling is as strong today as it has ever been.

"We need a change of culture, a move away from Government believing it enjoys a monopoly of wisdom in what is right and prudent for students and educators.

"We need to move away from treating unions with suspicion - where they are seen as an obstacle to be overcome or circumvented."

Addressing a motion on partnership in education, Mr Smith warned that the legislation emerging through the current education Bill was not enough to move the agenda forward.

"The real challenge is for everyone involved to change their attitudes, to jettison their old baggage and to make partnership a reality," Mr Smith said.

Bill Guthrie, past president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said far from being a dream administration, the coalition was "an Executive of our nightmares". As a member of the General Teaching Council, solely funded by teachers, he was concerned at attacks on it in the Bill. "Unlike the medical profession, the GTC has been successful in self-regulating," Mr Guthrie said.

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