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Victoria University Labour Supports University Hall Strike

As a youth branch of the Labour Party at Victoria University, it is our responsibility to advocate for students and to represent our peers. Our members are the Māori, Pasifika, immigrants, disabled persons and underpaid essential workers who are demographics hit hardest by economic crises. Ekta Raturi, an 18 year old VicLabour student is one of those affected from an immigrant family. “My dad is the only one who earns, I can’t work right now – it's really difficult. I’ve seen that in many families.”

We are issuing a response following the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) announcement that they will bill residents $150 to hold their rooms throughout Level 3. This is alongside other universities failing to support their students during times of hardship, including AUT, Auckland, Canterbury and Otago.

Chair of VicLabour Tawhai Johnson says “We would like to thank the Government for the extraordinary and compassionate efforts thus far, but they must go further. We ask them to use any influence to stop the further marginalisation of students by allocating further funding to tertiary providers to cover Hall fees.”

Lay-offs from COVID-19 and the bleak job market, especially in hospitality, mean students have been left in significant financial hardship. The $150 holding fee by VUW may be the difference between living above or below the poverty line for many of them.

Universities assume that parents will still be able to support students living in halls. Accommodation providers are reaping Government benefits while students fall deeper into this hardship. At Victoria University, one of the accommodation providers like Campus Living and Helen Lowry Hall Board Inc have taken over $900,000 and $54,000 respectively from the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

We call for an immediate Government package to financially support students and cover hall fees:

The Government must step in and negotiate with universities and accommodation providers to cancel such fees, or it must extend a package to cover them. A Labour Government must represent the interests of marginalised students. Students should not be left to pay the fees. It is unconscionable.

The Government must immediately implement a Universal Student Allowance tied to the Consumer Price Index and benchmarked to the cost of living. The COVID-19 student support package rolled out early this month was disappointing and merely supports more debt for young people.

A more ambitious COVID-19 support package for students. Existing Labour policies, like Fees Free, have halted this decline, however we need to go further to reduce this. The Government must ensure New Zealand has the skilled workers required for the jobs of the future.

Victoria University and the Government should not have relied on private providers that put profits before people in the first place: now is the time to fight for students.

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