A few weeks ago, the provincial government froze the minimum wage at $14 per hour and cut the planned increase to $15 per hour that was planned for January 2019. With this cut, many businesses, but not all, have decided to forgo the planned increase they had set up for employees. The McMaster Students Union should not be one of them.
Studies have shown that the actual living wage in Hamilton is $15.85. The cost of tuition ranges, but the majority of programs at McMaster are roughly $7000, with some programs slightly below that figure, and many significantly above, going as high as $13,829. There’s no collected data on the average rent McMaster students pay, but anecdotal evidence points to most students living in off-campus housing paying somewhere around $500 per month, not including utilities. Some students pay less and others pay more.
With this in mind, working during your undergraduate degree is inevitable for a lot of people. Whether it’s a retail job or a paid internship, many students find themselves working two to three jobs at a time just to pay all of their fees. I can personally think of a handful of friends and acquaintances who juggled three jobs just to pay for rent and school.
The MSU employs 300 students, and the jobs they offer are unique to the university bubble. They offer the kind of experience many people would not receive otherwise and are often set up with the student schedule in mind, making them ideal for anyone who wants to work on campus. The MSU’s minimum wage for these jobs is currently $14.15.
It’s no secret that students are struggling to pay tuition and the rising costs of rent. One of the easiest ways to support these students is to go ahead with the wage increase, something that had already been worked into the 2018-2019 budget.
The MSU has a lot of initiatives that support low-in- come students such as the Food Collective Centre, but one of the easiest ways they could vastly improve the livelihood of hundreds of McMaster students is by raising the wages for their workers. The MSU is run almost entirely off of student labour, so it would only make sense that these students are compensated appropriately.
If the MSU really wants to support low-income students, they could easily do so by making sure that their workers are compensated appropriately. In doing so, they set a standard not only for other student unions but for any future employers students may have.