Unions court working students with low join-up fees

March 10, 2000

Students need trade unions, according to a survey of undergraduate working trends by the Trades Union Congress.

Approximately 70 per cent of the 311 students who took part in the Students@work.2000 survey said that they would join a trade union, while only 4 per cent said they knew "a great deal" about the role of trade unions.

The survey, carried out by the independent Labour Research Department, also revealed that 72 per cent of students have to work to survive.

John Monks, TUC general secretary, said that the results present a challenge to trade unions to encourage greater student membership.

"Students and other young people need rights at work more than nearly any other group, but they are the least likely to call on a union for help and know little about their rights. It used to be thought that students were a privileged group.

"This is not the case today. Students are being forced into low-paid and dead-end jobs," Mr Monks said.

As a result, unions are cutting membership fees. Students can be full members of the union for 10 pence a week, while Unison is offering equally competitive rates.

Sam Gurney, an organisational officer for the General Municipal Boilermakers union, said that trade unions have realised that students need to be protected in the workplace.

"They are at the most exploited end of the labour market and often come from a background with no awareness of what their rights are," he said.

The TUC has also launched a number of awareness campaigns with the National Union of Students with the aim of improving trade union presence on campuses nationally.

"The NUS can represent students through education issues, but we cannot represent them through their employers," an NUS spokesperson said. "Now that there are so many students working, they really need the support of trade unions."

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