News Editor and Writers
The Queen Margaret Union’s (QMU) presidential candidates appeared to have U-turned over their opinions of the union implementing a living wage at the Presidential Hustings.
Jack Smith, Emma Anderson and Scott Wilson initially said that a living wage for under 25s working at the QMU would be unfeasible in the union’s current financial state, but later all agreed that they would implement a living wage to all union staff if the price of tenants was raised to £2.50. When the question was first posed to the candidates, all candidates apart from Joe Mullally insisted that in “an ideal world” they would, but at the moment it was not financially viable.
Max Sefton, president of the QMU, chaired the hustings and posed questions that had been submitted in advance to all candidates. Issues about the QMU’s relationship with the University, the block grant it receives and the union’s current and future financial state were also raised. Candidates were also questioned intensively about their experience and manifestos
Towards the end of the event, Liam King, president of the Student Representative Council shouted that the QMU was suffering from a “fucking existential crisis” and that the important questions had not been addressed when the debate became concerned with whether a staff member, who was not a member of the QMU, could ask a question.
When asked if the candidates would allow Peter Tatchel, Donald Trump, UKIP and SWP to speak at the QMU, Anderson and Smith declared that they would give a them platform to speak, while Wilson said he would “if the membership want them here” and if a “majority vote” was received.
Scott Wilson opened with the Publication Committee’s success and how he has seen it change from “15 people to 50” and said “the sense of community exists really strongly in the Publications Committee and that is something we need to expand that to the QMU”. Wilson was questioned on how advertising revenue from QMunicate magazine had fallen by £500 during his convenorship and how he could be accountable and measure his actions with a manifesto without clear metrics, to which he responded: “Judge me by the increase in membership” as well as “other measurable metrics such as finances.”
Smith opened saying: “QMU is in a bit of a precarious position financially” and that “we’re going to have to put a lot of pressure on the University to increase the money”. Smith remarked that the £250,000 block grant given to the union by the University was less than the salary of Anton Muscatelli, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University, as well as less than the support the GUU has received. When asked: “You’ve spoken about expenses of higher ups while saying the QMU doesn’t receive enough financial help: Is this tantamount to admitting that the QMU, with you at the helm, can’t support itself?”, Smith replied: “I believe it can support itself, but we do need that extra support from the university”.
Smith was also asked what projects he would need funding for that would “enhance the student experience” to which he replied that he would fund general improvements to the building and catering, and when asked if that could amount to the University “subsidising tennents and chips”, Smith replied “in part, yes”.
Anderson opened by commenting “I think the QMU is in a pretty precarious position financially and it’s only going to get worse over the next few years”, and admitting “I don’t actually think that the University is going to give us more money… I have no delusions about that”. Anderson was quizzed intensively on her absence during planning for Freshers’ Week as well as opening up the staff job description to the board of the management or the executive, which would breach the staff-board protocol. Anderson replied: “I think we should be looking at them in tandem with the board. Not to review with the object of changing, but looking at where the responsibilities of each lies… we’re running a business together, this should be improved.”
Joe Mullally opened by saying “I’m gonna run on a slate” and then proceeded to stand on a slate. He then expanded on his plans to build a wall between the QMU and the GUU and was quizzed on how he intended on moving the third floor to the first floor, to which Mullally replied “by switching the buttons on the lift”.