Student representatives work behind the scenes to minimise the shitty things about UTS. They work to make our education quality, accessible and safe —and most people don’t even know it. What you also probably do not know, is that those representatives are severely underpaid. RACHEL EDDIE discusses.

 

So what are UTS student representatives paid?

The President and Education Vice-President of the UTSSA (UTS Students’Association) are each paid $19,000 per annum. The Secretary, the only other paid student representative, receives a quarter of that amount. All other members of the UTSSA are paid nothing. This includes the Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, Broadway Convenor, Markets Convenor, Kuring-gai Convenor, Indigenous Officer, Postgrad Officer, Overseas Officer, Wom*n’s Officer, Environment Officer, Disability Officer, Ethnocultural Officer, Welfare Officer, Overseas Officer and Director of Student Publications, along with a further 10 Members of Council, as well as Vertigo’s 10 editors and two designers. All are paid nothing for their work, and most will in fact find themselves out of pocket bettering the UTS experience.

 

What are they paid at other universities?

For the most part, comparable universities pay their student representatives much more:

At the University of Sydney, the President receives $39,071.27 in wages and $3,614.09 in superannuation, totalling at $42,685.36. For the office bearers of the Wom*n’s Department, there is $25,472.96 plus $2,356.25 superannuation in stipends. This is typically split between two, however, and this year it is between three. For editors of Honi Soit, their student magazine, there is a cap of $40,000 to share between editors. This year there are 10 editors and one designer, each receiving $3,636 per annum.

Ammy Singh, co-editor of Tharunka, confirmed that the Secretary, Education, Women’s, International, Disability, Welfare and Indigenous Officers at UNSW are each paid $10,982 per annum. The office bearer of Ethnic Affairs receives $8,237, and will next year be paid as much as those aforementioned. Two Queer Officers are each paid $8,237 per annum, and the editors of Tharunka, the UNSW student newspaper, split $17,159 between three. This equates to $5,719.6 per editor.

At Monash University, all office bearers receive $10.91 per hour. For the co-editors of student magazine Lots Wife, that equates to $272 per week for roughly 25 hours of work.

At the University of Wollongong, Belinda Quinn, co-editor of Tertangala, confirmed that an honorarium of $6,000 is split between their editors. This year there are two editors, meaning that each will receive $3,000 for their year’s work.

For editors of Catalyst, the RMIT student magazine, each are paid an honorarium of around $9,000 for the year. Broede Carmody, co-editor of Catalyst commented that this “means we get paid just over $300 a fortnight. This is definitely not enough to live off and hardly anything in comparison to the amount of work we put in, but it does help us pay our rent.”

Even those paid a greater wage by their university still find the remuneration to be inadequate. The financial situation for UTS student representatives can only be worse.

 

Why does UTS pay less?

It’s clear that student representatives at UTS receive less financial assistance than at comparable universities. UTSSA President, Chris Gall explained that this all began with the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in 2006, which was “the single greatest hit to the financial capacity of student unions in Australian history. Many were completely dissolved.

“UTS StudentsIt was at that point where the once minimal but adequate pay of student office bearers was abolished and the current insufficient arrangements put in place. Numerous staff were also terminated, departments abolished and programs ended. Since the introduction of the SSAF [Student Services and Amenities Fee] in 2010 some of these services have been restored, including the legal service, additional caseworks, the clubs and collectives program and Vertigo funding was drastically raised. What never saw implementation was the reintroduction of pay for student office bearers,”Gall explained.

Why that has still hasn’t changed, according to Gall, is that “unlike the pre-2006 system of student union funding, the SSAF model puts the allocation of fees into the hands of the university to allocate. They have not permitted SSAF funding to be used for pay beyond a certain level.”

 

Why should they get paid?

Catalyst, you said it, sister. But hypocrisy aside, there are a number of reasons why paying student representatives matters —and why it should matter to you. 

First off, a lack of pay for student representatives compromises their ability to deliver. With such inadequate pay rates, representatives cannot see reforms through and make the achievements that they would like to. As Gall stated: “Lots of work could be done that people simply don’t have the capacity for. People that would like to contribute to the Association instead are forced to do paid work to live. Offering basic financial recompense would mean every cent of SSAF money that goes to the Association could be better applied and produce better outcomes for advocacy and services.”

Second of all, inadequate pay keeps disadvantaged students from gaining equal experience and representation in the Association. UTS Member of Council, Maggie Sheen stated that: “Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in particular face great difficulty in student representation. The ability to ensure they can afford basic living needs such as rent, utilities and food is compromised when students aren’t properly compensated for their time and effort.”

“It can become almost impossible for financially vulnerable students to get involved (and stay involved) in student representation. Representation requires diversity, which can

On this point, Carmody noted that “in particular, paid positions encourage students from rural and regional backgrounds like myself to get involved in student media and politics because we do not have the luxury of living at home, and working for free is often not a viable option.”By providing inadequate financial assistance —or in many cases, no financial assistance at all —we keep disadvantaged students from having representation in the Association, we keep them from having their voices heard and we keep them from gaining experience. Those that do join the Association, can end up drowning without the support they need.

But lastly —even if you yourself are not involved in your Student’s Association, an active Association and reputable Vertigo are likely to lead to employability. Oh, you go to that university I saw on television? That university with a knock-out student magazine? Your education must be top quality! You have the job Glen Coco! You go Glen Coco.

 

Okay, so when can we expect change?

According to Chris Gall, UTSSA President: “There is a strong possibility of stipends increasing. This requires a by-law change which is constitutionally challenging. Our conversations with the university are about securing another long term funding arrangement.”The President noted that the Association was this year afforded an extra $50,000. “Next year we are expecting a similar increase, of which we are likely to request some amount go to assisting the implementation of new stipends and honorariums.

“This year management indicated that allocating us money for student pay was a low priority however, which is why the Association is preparing to commit some non-SSAF revenue to the project.

Though the university has put paying employees low on their list of things to do Gall remained hopeful that an increase in pay will see the Secretary receive a full rate, and quarter rates for the Treasurer, Assistant Secretary and ten other office bearers, as well as a modest grant for each Vertigo editor each semester in the style of Commonwealth Start-up Scholarships.

“This proposal is only a modest increase in stipends, which is all we can afford at the medium term, but will have an enormously positive effect on the function of the Students’Association,”the President noted, and is “only in the early consultation phase.”

We all enjoy the Bluebird Brekkie Bar, and appreciate smaller class sizes and fair working conditions for our teachers. We are pleased to have a safe space for Wom*n, Indigenous and Queer collectives. We relish free legal, financial and career services. But all this doesn’t appear from nowhere —students take time out of their lives to make it happen. Even this article and the pages you read in this entire magazine are made by students who do it for you —and for nothing.

As it stands, volunteers in the Students’Association do not have the resources to make your experience as good as it can be. Other universities do. Is UTS okay being lesser than the University of Sydney? Than UNSW? Than RMIT?

 

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